From all the events that we have covered from the past years, this may be the most disappointing one.
Otakuzine or much known to many as Ozine is a monthly magazine that features anime and otaku culture and was published by PSICOM Publishing, Ozine was also known to host several anime and cosplay conventions every year which was entitled Ozine Fest, their every first convention was on 2005 at Robinsons Galleria. They have been a veteran when preparing these kinds of events as they regularly sprout out 4 events annually (namely Ozine Fest, Ozine Fest Anime Figure Special, Otaku Expo and Otaku Expo Reload) with still Ozine Fest as their flagship event. They have been using the SM Megatrade Hall as their main venue for the past years since 2007 then they have decided to move to the SMX Convention Center for Otaku Expo Reload on November 2013 and then back again to the Megatrade Hall for Otaku Expo 2014 last January, and finally they announced that they will be at the SMX Convention Center once again for Ozine Fest 2014 in April for a much longer three-day event.
We take a deeper look on Ozine Fest 2014 by attending the said convention and see if it managed to become better from its predecessors.
Entrance and Registration
As you step on to the venue, you will be greeted with a massive line of people piling up to get inside the event. The first day was still normal as it was Friday on that particular day, but on Day 2 of Ozine Fest, the line almost circled around the convention center, although on Day 3, the whole ground floor and third floor was flooded with people waiting to get a ticket. According to statements from attendees, it took them around two and a half hours (while some claimed more than three hours) waiting in line while soaking at the sun’s harsh rays before they can purchase a ticket, if you managed to pre-purchase a ticket, it will just take you a few minutes (which also includes swimming into a sea of attendees that are lining up to purchase a ticket) before you can get inside the event area. A good recommendation to lessen the massive line for ticket buying is to expand their pre-order options; it would be possible to tie up with SM so that attendees can just purchase tickets from SM ticket outlets.
One of the problems we noticed for the ticket purchase is that the ticket booth only has three booth windows and during the peak hours (around 12 PM to 2 PM) on Day 3, only one personnel is handling the ticket sales, now imagine that single person selling tickets to hundreds that are in line and the time it will take before majority of those can be accommodated. They should have doubled the number of ticket booths and then placed the ticket booth at the ground floor (the event was at the 3rd floor).
Another problem is that only one door at the event is open for both entrance for new tickets and re-entry and for exit, now combine that with the sheer amount of people purchasing ticket and then proceeding to the all-in-one entrance and exit area, it is like shoving a cargo truck into a small opening. The area gets congested pretty fast and even the convention security are having a hard time maintaining order.
And finally the most cringe-worthy problem that we found is the sudden price increase of the tickets. The original price was supposed to be PhP 120 (their previous events are priced at PhP 100) as they announced last March on their Facebook pages, but no one ever expect the final ticket price would spike up to PhP 150 as no future announcements were made a few days before the actual event and there were no explanations during the day on why the price was increased.
This kind of act is a massive low blow to their community, it is still their obligation to inform their consumers for any sudden changes and this can be considered an act of betrayal of trust to their loyal con-goers especially when they promised that it would be priced at PhP 120. Only those who pre-ordered the tickets managed to get theirs for a much cheaper price of PhP 100.
Those who opted for the VIP (priced at PhP 1,300) managed to get a free 1 day pass to the event (the Regular Pass A PhP 500 and Pass B PhP 700 however still required to purchase a separate ticket to enter the event venue) and the entrance process to the meet & greet with the guest cosplayers were smooth, which is a good thing for those who purchased the premium package.
The Event Site/ Booths
The floor size of Function Room 5 was at 2,350 square meters, which is doubled compared to Megatrade Hall 3 (around 930 square meters) which Ozine always rented for their annual events. Ozine Fest offered several booths for different audiences, there were gaming booths from Level Up!/Asiasoft, Friendster, Leadhope and Massive that are showcasing their latest line up of games, then there was Neutral Grounds for their Card Fight Vanguard tournament along with several tables set up for on-goers to try the game or compete for the tournament. Team Onii Chan was present to display their group’s anime figure collection for attendees to take pictures at, Animax was also there giving prize goodies to those who registered and participated at their booth. The merchandise booths were segregated from the sponsor booths where they offer different varieties of merchandise from gaming to anime.
But a large venue will still be useless if there is no proper floor plan. We noticed that right after you enter the venue, you will be greeted with a long line of people waiting to get inside the maid cafe (which is right beside the entrance) and a console gaming area right behind the entrance table, it can be difficult getting inside when both areas are crowded with customers and on-lookers. Another problem is the indie section, you wouldn’t notice there is a booth for indie artists as they are in between the stage area and the merchandise section which it is completely covered, there’s not even a sign to show where the indie section is located.
It would have been better if they provide a event map to showcase all the booths, even if they print a giant tarpaulin and slap it outside and inside the venue to help the con-goers navigate around the area.
One issue that the con-goers are experiencing was the overcrowded venue, despite the 2,000 plus square meter floor size,
Though the venue space might be doubled, the stage however, was much smaller. The stage may have LED screens attached on the wall provided by Devant, the platform size was drastically smaller than from the usual. As if the stage has the same size that were used by other organizers for their mini events. Though the audience space were given a much larger space, it will still be difficult to watch any performance, not even a separate projector was set up to improve the viewing pleasure.
All the usual activities we always see on Ozine Fest were still present; Battle of the Bands, Karaoke Contests, Eating Contests and the fan-favorite Cosplay Competition are still there, which is a good thing as these are what the audience always look forward to, but it would be nice to see new activities once in a while.
For the case on the VIP users, they will be able to meet and take a photo with four (out of the six) of the guest cosplayers. Unfortunately due to some immigration issues, the other two guest cosplayers did not make it, there were no compensations provided by the organizers for those who purchased the PhP 1,300 All-Star VIP Pass, which could be a rip-off for those who are expecting better service for their payments.
As we mentioned earlier, for years of attending different pop-culture events, Ozine Fest 2014 probably topped our list for the worst organized event. Despite the larger venue, the organizers are not as always prepared to handle large number of attendees. Con-goers complained about the previous events of Ozine where it is always full and crowded and yet nothing has changed. We also noticed that their methods on the ticket purchasing process was similar from their Megatrade Hall days, which could have cause the slow process of tickets since the .
It seems that despite the flaws they encountered through the years, they never bothered to take a look back and review all the lapses they have committed so they could try to make things right, or probably they know that whatever complains the con-goers would throw at them, these same people will still attend their events and would forget all the mistakes they committed.
Up until now the Ozine organizers have not posted any official statements about the problems the con-goers have experienced, from the massive crowd lining up for the ticket to the unannounced price increase of the tickets. With this kind of behavior, it looks like these same problems will repeat itself on future events.
*Don’t worry, our Aftermath Video will be available after a few days on a different post*