The 25 Biggest Geek Culture Conventions in the World

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Anyone who’s ever attended San Diego Comic-Con (or gawked at the aerial photographs of the lines) will probably tell you that this event has to be the geek community’s premier gathering spot. After all, where else can you see the Avengers 2 trailer early? But did you know that in terms of attendance, Comic-Con doesn’t even rank in the top five for nerdy events? Or that it’s not even the biggest one in the US?

It’s true! The world’s a big place, and with events like comic and game conventions on the rise, there’s a heck of a lot more out there than San Diego. Here are the 25 biggest geek culture events in the world.

(As a quick note, I did not include press or industry-only events such as E3 and CES. Anyone can potentially buy a ticket to any of the events on the list, although considering how fast they sell out, that’s easier said than done.)

[This list was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated.]

1. Comiket – Tokyo, Japan – 590,000+ (2013)

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Comic Market, abbreviated to “Comiket,” is massive vendor fair for self-published manga (called dōjinshi), held twice a year in Tokyo. It began in 1975 with around 600 attendees, and has since swelled to an estimated 590,000 in 2013.

A big reason for these incredible turnout numbers is the fact that the comics you can buy at Comiket are extremely rare. Because they’re self-published (and rarely reprinted), sought after ones are often found online for up to 100 times their original value after the event.

To try and snag an item from their favorite authors or artists, fans often line up in front of the Tokyo Big Sight convention center days before the actual event. This has been a huge pain in the ass for the city, and so the practice has been officially banned in recent years (but people still do it anyways).

2. gamescom – Cologne, Germany – 345,000 (2015)

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While E3 gets the most buzz here in the states, Germany’s gamescom is by far the world’s largest gaming event, with over 300,000 flocking to the Cologne Exhibition Centre in 2014. This included fans from over 88 different countries, over 700 exhibitors, and more than 6,000 journalists.

Virtually every major publisher and developer shows up in some capacity, with a huge variety of upcoming games playable on the show floor. For anyone who can’t get into E3 (and is willing to fly out to Germany), gamescom is probably your best bet to try out those games you just can’t wait for.

3. Tokyo Game Show – Chiba, Japan – 251,000 (2014)

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It’s no gamescom, but Tokyo’s video game convention is a worthy competitor. With a focus on Japanese games, TGS draws a huge crowd of both fans and industry professional. The event itself is actually split in half, two days for conducting business, and two days that are open to the public.

4. Lucca Comics & Games – Lucca, Italy – 240,000+ (2014)

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Lucca’s comic convention might officially be #4 on this list… but it has a solid argument for ranking a lot higher. In 2014, the event sold 240,000 passes to the event, but not wanting to miss out, another 200,000 people showed up. It’s worth noting that the city of Lucca has a population of under 90,000. And I thought the Comic-Con crowds were bad…

5. Japan Expo – Paris, France – 240,000 (2014)

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France and Japan have a weird obsession with each other, and nowhere is that more obvious than Paris’s Japan Expo, a five day event celebrating Japanese pop culture. In 2014, over 240,000 attended to check out Japanese comics, movies, animation, food, and even traditional activities like Kendo.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, but you can’t make it out to Paris every year, the organizers recently began a US-based version of the event that takes place in San Mateo, California.

6. New York Comic Con – New York City, New York – 151,000 (2014)

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The king is dead, long live the king. In 2013, NYCC toppled San Diego Comic-Con as North America’s biggest pop culture event. The following year, it bolstered those numbers by opening up another day on the schedule, hitting a record 151,000 attendees.

Even more impressive is the fact that these numbers don’t even include New York Super Week, a weeklong lead-up to the convention which features 110 events in 25 different venues in the city.

7. Anime Festival Asia – Location Varies – 145,000 (2014)

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Anime Festival is a series of anime-themed conventions in Southeast Asia, with recent events being held in Indonesia and Singapore. Programming often includes screenings of new anime releases, cosplay competitions, and concerts featuring some of Japan’s biggest musical acts.

8. San Diego Comic-Con – San Diego, CA – 130,000+ (2015)

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Comic-Con might not be in the top five, but their attendance figures are absolutely nothing to sneeze at. With its ongoing reputation as the go-to summer destination for geek-minded superfans, Comic-Con still reliably draws in the biggest movie studios and comic publishers, who often bring exclusive looks at their upcoming releases.

In recent years, the event has also hosted an increasing number of video game related activities, with both Nintendo and Microsoft setting up lounges in the surrounding area where fans can try out upcoming games.

 

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17 Comments

  1. Comic Con Experience, the biggest Brazilian Comic Con, should have been in NYCC’s place as 6th. It has, indeed, sold 180,000+ tickets this year, and it’s been held in São Paulo since 2014.

  2. Pingback: Nerd Business
  3. Alamo City Comic Con (or AC3) in San Antonio Texas was 73,000 last year (2014, it’s second year). I haven’t heard what the official numbers are yet for the 2015 convention, because it was only a few weeks ago, but I know they had over 90,000 tickets sold before the con actually started. Someone may want to contact them, as I do not know the way to “officially” report attendance. The location, the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center in San Antonio, also is expanding by an additional 1.6M sqft. So, if it didn’t make the cut this year, the 2016 convention should break 125k-150k. Making it in the top 5 in the US if I’m not mistaken. And now, the same company is putting on a second Con (Terror Expo) in January, and it is already selling tickets in the 10’s of thousands.

  4. This article has only been updated with some numbers and not all cons. Though I have to say after this year’s Denver Comic Con, it should be noted on here as this year we surpassed our numbers from previous years and, according to this list anyway, should be between number 12 and 13 with over 101,500 guests.

  5. Um Salt Lake Comic Con broke 100,000 on it’s first even just two years ago and has been hitting 75,000 to 100,000+ regularly ever since.

    “More than 100,000 attended final day of Salt Lake Comic Con” 9/7/2014
    http://fox13now.com/2014/09/07/organizers-more-than-100000-attended-final-day-of-salt-lake-comic-con/

    “Salt Lake Comic Con FanX draws 100,000 attendees” 4/22/2014
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865601544/Salt-Lake-Comic-Con-FanX-draws-100000-attendees.html?pg=all

  6. Salt Lake Comic Con, PelliCon, and GeekyCon (formerly LeakyCon) are the bigger ones I know of and have been to.

  7. Huh, i wonder why FanExpo in Toronto with 125,000 attendees and Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo with 102,000 attendees didnt make the list?

  8. So am I missing something, because it looks like your article is missing Salt Lake Comic Con. It should fall in somewhere around 8th.

  9. Hello!

    Phoenix Comicon in AZ is missing from the list. According to number I got from the Media Relations person the week of this year’s con, 2014 saw over 55,000 people attend. There might have even been 60,000 or 65,000. I can’t find my notes, at the moment. Thanks!

  10. You have your numbers a little off, thought that is not surprising as the real numbers are hard to figure out. because of the way badges are counted. Most of these shows count day badges, that means a person with a weekend pass gets counted 3 or 4 times depending on how many times they show up and how many days the show is. For example, if you want the number of people at Comic con SD, you take the number they give you and divide that by 3. Dragon con, counts the number of people at the con, in that a 4 day badge counts as 1 person and they are well known to actually… under count… due to a fire marshal issue. So in actuality Dragon con beats out comic con very easily. Not sure about how some of the other shows count numbers but I know Pax and emerald city both do this.

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