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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.