Gaming, cosplay, collectibles there are hundreds, if not thousands of conventions that are specifically aimed at the ‘geek’ crowd. So it is not uncommon to find a few conventions in close proximity to each other. This means that they are competing for similar crowds. So when two conventions decided to join up, there is no surprise, and typically it turns out to be a good thing.
One such last-minute marriage of conventions resulted in 2050Daytona which was held over the Halloween weekend at the Ocean Center. 2050 Daytona was a combination of a fan and gaming convention. It was billed as a merge of gaming, comic book, and film.
The conventions/events that were absorbed by 2050 Daytona were IronGaming and Enigma Con. Enigma was a smaller con that had a very impressive lineup before the merge. It wasn’t a huge convention, but it was intimate and friendly. It was the type of convention where you could see and meet the guests star without standing in line for hours, only to be shuffled through in 30 seconds when you finally get up there. It was small con competing with SpookyEmpire and Iron Gaming on the same weekend, splitting the fan base, joining forces only made sense.
From the beginning, the owners of 2050Daytona took control. Heath Jones had a vision and it seemed that he was the only one that could bring it to life. He assumed control of almost everything from scheduling to contracts, very little was relegated to others. When problems came up he frequently passed them on to his right-hand-person, his wife Lanie who then had to solve them.
The convention started off with a rocky start as advertising only started appearing around September. There was big push on local media, but by that point many typical con goers would have already decided what they were doing on Halloween weekend.
The NewsJournal online article stated that Don Poor the director of the Ocean Center, where the event was held, was cautious about the event’s potential from the beginning. “If you go on their website, there’s a lot of things listed there that they are going to do,” Poor said. “There’s a trade show associated with it in the exhibit hall and there will be gaming competition. We’ve not done this event before and, of course, they haven’t done one either. We’ll see if it works.”
“They keep talking about a lot of different ideas and they keep changing a lot of things around,” Poor said of 2050 organizers. “These events do tend to draw well across the country. Of course, they have to establish themselves. You start soft in attendance until people know what to expect.”
This article was written on October 29th, the day prior to the convention and there were comments about “changing a lot of things around.” That’s not good, in the days prior to a major convention changes mean trouble, things aren’t going as planned.
Too bad it was too late for many of the vendors to realize that.
The con did not live up to all it promised to be. According to many vendors they were told that ticket pre-sales were several thousand (one vendor told me they were quoted 9,000.) Yet several have reported to me that they might have seen 2,000 people on the convention floor over the weekend. One article quoted Heath Jones estimating that 2050 could draw between 5,000 and 7,500 fans in its first year. The numbers they saw were nowhere near expectations and many, if not most did not even break even.
I have been told that even though the con was supposed to be merged, it was still essentially two different conventions held at one location. There was the fan side and then the gaming side. The owners seemed to concentrate more on the gaming side of the convention, which was where they originally started and left the fan side to basically take care of itself. The gaming side did seem to have higher attendance, but still nowhere near expected numbers.
This con came to my attention because of broken promises. Several contracted guests of this convention are not happy. The convention did not live up to their expectation. As one guest told me, the crowds were almost non-existent.
There were the usual complaints regarding scheduling, some had been told they would appear one day only to find out they had to appear the next or had a panel they didn’t know about. They had no or at least very few complaints regarding how they were treated on site.
The complaints and broken promises came after the convention was over, the doors were closed and the money counted. The convention ripped them off. There were several people who received no compensation despite what contracts stated. That is several thousand dollars that they are out, with only a contract to wave around. Others received checks which proceeded to bounce, causing them great distress.
Many of the people received no payments which leave with simply a contract to argue over, and many of them can not afford the cost or hassle of a lawyer. Others have some recourse as the checks were written in Florida and under Florida law, any bounced check may be subject to prosecution under Florida’s criminal statutes.
The big push at the new convention was the gaming side of it. There was a classics game room for those who were into old school. And for those into a little more action there was a first-person shooting championship hosted by eSports as well as Halo5 Guardians and Call of Duty:Advanced Warfare tournaments. It was claimed that there was a prize pool of over $15,000.
For those more interested in celebrities there was an impressive lineup of over 40. Just a few of them included Halo voice actors Steve Downes (Master Chief) and Jen Taylor (Cortana), Micheal Biehn from Aliens and Terminator, Gigi Edgely of Farscape and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, and Anthony Montgomery who played Travis Mayweather in Star Trek:Enterprise and Andre Maddox in General Hospital.
For the cosplay crowd there were several familiar names in cosplay including Cecil Grimes, Callie Cosplay, Nerd Bunny, Shane Morris, Jc Cox and Siren Croft Cosplay. There were also three costume contests, one for gaming fans called the Respawn Wardrobe Cosplay Competition, the Future of Cosplay Competition and a Best of the Undead costume contest at the Zombies vs. Gypsies Street Party.
One of the nice factors about the convention was that, per an October 16th article 5% of the net receipts were to be distributed between five non-profit organizations, The Arc of Volusia, The Boys and Girls Club of Volusia/Flagler Counties, Early Learning Coalition of Flagler and Volusia Counties, Southeast Volusia Humane Society, and Junior Achievement of Central Florida.
Considering the financial woes of this convention and their inability to fulfill their contracts I have reached out to the charities to see if they have received any donations. So far I have not received a response.
As for the convention itself many of the vendors had good or at least neutral things to say. It wasn’t the best they had attended, but it wasn’t the worst. The biggest problem for many of them was the attendance and the fact that the convention was competing with so much over that weekend. Many of the problems were pretty typical and expected.
Most of those contracted for entertainment purposes had either minimal or no issues and would gladly work with the organizers again. Several of them had fun.
Attendee’s had a great time, though who doesn’t when you are with friends. A good group of friends can make even the worst con enjoyable. One regret many had been that it was smaller than they expected and for the cost many had wished they had chosen to go to SpookyEmpire.
Every con has some last-minute contract negotiations and scheduling conflicts, but this convention had more than it’s share.
Talking to some vendors and guests there were the usual last-minute contract negotiations, but there were also plenty of problems that were a little more out of the norm.
One common complaint was that vendors were required to be on site the day before the convention, which added to their costs. For big vendors this is understandable as they have a lot of inventory that needs to be set up. For the small vendors it was no longer just Friday through Sunday, it was now cutting into their regular work week and requiring another expensive hotel night, something many couldn’t afford and thanks to con attendance was hitting them right in the wallet.
One guest group was contracted to put on a show and in lieu of payment they negotiated for a booth. They were told that the event was going to be huge and that there was a vendor waiting list so they were given a discount on a booth instead of a free booth and they were to have a panel to promote themselves on Saturday. The weekend of the convention they discovered that because they were now classified as a vendor, they needed to purchase tickets for their people, something they hadn’t counted on. On top of that, It was noticed on Friday that their panel was not listed in the panel schedule.
It was negotiated that a spot would be found for them on Sunday which put a crimp on them as they only had Saturday tickets for their people and if they wanted their people there on Sunday they would have to purchase more tickets. The additional tickets meant that there was no way they were making anything that weekend. This also meant that they would have less of their people available for the panel as several had come out just for Saturday and could not make Sunday.
This guest group was never told when or where their Sunday panel was, despite asking numerous times. Later on Sunday they heard their panel being announced over the PA and several members of their group, and a guest they had invited from a popular show, attempted to find out where they were to go. No one was able to direct them to their panel room, so they never did find out and gave up.
The CEO of this group made it well-known that they were upset and interestingly enough they received a $50 rebate on their credit card a few days later.
Considering that the price of a ticket was a single ticket was around $40, this was almost an insult.
Communication is Lacking
There has been several attempts to contact the management in an effort to resolve the payment issues, and so far, all anyone is getting are empty promises. Resolution and repayments have come and gone with many remaining unpaid. Phone calls and emails are frequently going unanswered or getting minimal responses. Email responses frequently have no names attached to them.
I, myself, have attempted to contact the management with no luck. Initially they provided me with emails addresses that either bounced or got no responses and facebook messages are read, but left unanswered. Earlier this week they asked me to once again email them questions which they promised to respond to last night and as of 6am this morning I have not seen a response.
Why these parties have not been paid is strictly speculation at this point, but it seems as if the con did not go as expected and they simply do not have the funds to pay their obligations. That is not unheard of, but normally there is some dialogue and something is resolved in one way or another. Currently the management of 2050Daytona has promised to make good on all payments by Christmas, but considering their communication skills we will see how well that goes. We will be following up with people to see if payments were ever distributed.
The scary part is that the organizers are already talking about another show for next year. If they can’t pay for this year, what makes them think they can pay for next?