San Diego Comic-Con: Counting cosplayers

The Whovian cosplay meetup!

I don't know what possessed me this year, but I started wondering about the percentage of Comic-Con attendees that cosplay. I know part of the motivation is that there is almost no cosplay on Wednesday's Preview Night (there's some, but very few and it's very casual), and on Thursday there is a significant and noticeable increase in the percentage of people in costume.

So I started rough counting cosplayers vs. non-cosplayers. I would take a representative sample periodically through the day, and it would be wherever it occurred to me. I'd count while waiting in line for a panel, and when I was on the exhibition floor, and while walking through the Sails Pavilion. I didn't count outside of the convention center because I decided to just limit myself to people who had passes. And since it was all in my head, i tended to round off a lot. The numbers are definitely approximate!

My criteria for identifying someone in costume was subjective. My cutoff was whether someone was clearly portraying a character. Just putting on a Batman shirt or wearing cat ears in your hair wasn't enough to be counted as a costume. I didn't have to recognize the character (there were plenty which I couldn't identify), but I needed to be able to tell that someone was wearing a costume.

There are plenty of weaknesses in this count, but it's the first set of statistics of this kind that I've seen. In the future I'm going to do a better job at data collection. This time I only wrote down the daily numbers in some Facebook posts, and here I'm collecting the numbers from those posts.

So, with all of those caveats, here are my day to day statistics of attendees who were cosplaying:

  • Wednesday, 0, 0%,
    • I didn't actually count on Wednesday, but it was extremely small
  • Thursday, 1 in 10, 10%
  • Friday, 1 in 7, 15%
  • Saturday, 1 in 4, 25%
    • There were a LOT of cosplayers in groups, so the count kept changing
  • Sunday, 1 in 20, 5%

Busiest cosplay day, Saturday with about 1 in 4 people in costume. There are a LOT of cosplayers, and there are a lot of groups. Not necessarily groups with a common theme, just groups of friends all of whom were cosplaying.

Slowest cosplay day (other than the Wed. preview night) is Sunday with about 1 in 20 people in costume. It's a dramatic shift from the day before, and it's very noticeable. Sunday is the last day to sell out tickets, so my bet is that the majority of Sunday attendees only have the one day at the con, and so they are focused on the exhibition hall and getting to as many booths as possible. Cosplay takes a back seat for those people. That's just a guess on my part.