Hong Kong Ani-Com fair opens with unprecedented anti-scalping facial recognition technology

Diehard fans are forced to undergo a round of checks and queue up days in advance to secure priority entry, but most say it’s worth it

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 6:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 11:41pm

Hong Kong’s premier animation and games fair kicked off on Friday complete with the unprecedented use of facial recognition technology to combat ticket touts – and visitors were largely impressed with the new system.

More than 100 fans were seen queuing outside the venue in Wan Chai several hours before the annual Ani-Com and Games showcase opened its doors at 10am.

Organisers earlier said attendees buying “early-bird” tickets for the five-day event would need to queue up days in advance to register their details, to ensure the buyers were the ones actually entering the event come Friday.

Customers wishing to buy the priority tickets, which entitled them to first entry and dibs on a variety of highly sought-after merchandise, were on Monday required to hand over their ID card and phone numbers and agree to a facial recognition process at MacPherson Stadium.

Some even camped outside overnight to get a good spot in the queue for that process.

On Friday these visitors were asked to arrive at between 6am and 8am outside the fair venue at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to allow time to undergo the checks needed to verify their identity.

But of the 500 slots available for these early bird tickets, only 366 people registered.

Cosplay and comic fans sleep on streets to snap up Ani-Com tickets

Ben Ho, who was among the first in line on Friday, said he was satisfied with the new system.

He spent two days queuing up outside MacPherson Stadium earlier in the week.

“The system allows us to go home and rest before [the fair]. And I don’t have to carry all the equipment around on Friday that I would need for camping out the night before.”

Those with early bird tickets had the opportunity to snap up limited-edition collectibles.

Ian Woo, a 17-year-old student who spent 14 hours in line for Monday’s registration, was overjoyed to have pre-ordered a limited-edition anime-themed Octopus card set exclusive to the first 500 buyers.

But Kelvin Ho, a 20-year-old student, said he could not get his hands on anime figures he wanted despite securing a priority ticket.

“I took the first train early in the morning to queue up outside the stadium, but there were more than 200 people before me, with some staying overnight,” Ho said.

Ani-com ups the ante in battle with city’s ticket touts

He believed the registration system helped tackle scalpers but would not help fans get the products they wanted at the fair, as competition was stiff.

“There are simply too many people,” he said. “I guess the event is getting more popular.”

But other fans were lucky enough to bag what they came for, even without early-bird tickets.

Ngan Wai-chak, a 16-year-old student, took home a box of 3D models from the Transformers film series.

“The products here are cheaper. This box of models is priced at more than HK$3,000 (US$380) in Mong Kok, but I only paid HK$1,000 here,” said Ngan, who arrived at the venue after 7am.

“I’m not in a rush to snap up products,” he said. “I only want to walk around and see if I find something I like.”

Cosplay, anime and Hong Kong in Lego draw thousands to fair

Penny Tang, 20, only learned of the new queuing system when he arrived at 6.45am on Friday.

“I’m a bit worried I won’t make the limited quota of people to meet this Japanese singer I really like. But there’s nothing I can do because I don’t have an early bird ticket.”

More than 400 exhibitors occupying 250,000 sq ft of space over two exhibition halls are taking part in the fair.

Jacqueline Chiu Sin-ying from Sony Interactive Entertainment said her firm expected sales to rise by 5 per cent on last year’s event.

“Our highlight is the brand-new Marvel game for people to try and pre-order. It hasn’t been launched yet and we brought it over from the E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo] game festival in the United States,” Chiu said.

Muse Communication also forecast a better fair this year, eyeing a 5 to 10 per cent spike in sales.

The retailer was offering up eight grab bags featuring products related to “hit animation titles”, according to sales and marketing executive Selina Tam Yue-yan.

E-sports and cosplay competitions will also feature at the event, as well as the Hong Kong Comics Art Fair 2018 and International Children VR Film Fest.