I’ve had a few days to digest my experience at Phoenix Fan Fusion, the largest pop culture convention in Arizona. If you are looking for cosplay photos and not too interested in reading a wordy article, go ahead and just click here. The convention is held annually at the Phoenix Convention Center and typically on Memorial Day Weekend. With that general info out of the way, lets jump into it.
Right off the bat, I am going to give you my overall feeling about my experience at Fan Fusion this year: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot actually. Is it perfect? Nope. However what con is? Its four days of immersing yourself in various different aspects of pop culture. Do you just attend panels? PLENTY of those to choose from. Gaming? What kind of gaming – tabletop, video games, arcade, pinballs? It is all represented. Do you like cosplaying or taking photos of cosplayers? There are plenty of cosplayers that attend. The value for what is offered is exceptional, especially if you purchase your badge at the early price (which this year was $55).
Here is exactly what I liked over the four days: offering of interesting guest panels as I attended 6 and would have attended at least one or two more if it wasn’t for schedule overlap. Relatively smooth security check in each day as the wait time was reasonable (except Friday morning which was a 15 – 20 min wait process). The large selection of panels and programming to enjoy at all hours of the day/night was pretty impressive. Photo Ops to my knowledge did not experience any meltdowns or near riots which was great for everyone who purchased a photo op. I really liked seeing more off campus events such as the Zia Records pop up shop and the Rave of Thrones event at The Van Buren. The more other businesses get involved that are near the con, the better. Finally, no overwhelming crowds of people while moving through artist alley which can be a challenge to stop and look at artist tables.
On that note, I know some vendors and exhibitors mentioned they felt attendance was down and/or sales were down. I can’t speak to their sales but attendance did feel slightly lower but we won’t know that until/if the official attendance numbers get released. I did have a couple of minor issues with the convention but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the event: the comic book guest list while long, didn’t have many marquee names. I think Roy Thomas was the only guest had consistently had a line of attendees waiting to meet him and Denny O’Neil was on and off. I know it seems each year the comic book focus of this show shrinks and I would love to see it be a big part of the convention again, right now it is just an added bonus of attending. I’d love to see the gaming area moved upstairs to the Hall of Heroes and just have all the artists/vendors in the first floor instead of splitting them up between the two. Security, while efficient at most times, was wildly inconsistent. Some would practically stick their face bags and check every zipper, others would glance and get you through the line (also the whole bringing in water/food drama that took place the first two days which the convention addressed on Facebook.)
I think what we experienced this year will be relatively close to what we will see going forward. One or two major guests with a dozen or so genre guests filling out the roster. A few themed night life events inside of the convention center, maybe one outside of the convention center (I don’t see the hotels getting back into the action any time soon because of the security concerns). Phoenix Fan Fusion will never be San Diego Comic-Con or even WonderCon. What it is, is the largest convention in Arizona that provides great value and a pretty positive experience each Memorial Day Weekend.