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ComicCon 2011: Lots of Excitement, but not much 3D

Frequent readers of the Semico Spin know that I am a fan of ComicCon and attend it in San Diego, CA during my family vacation.  This is the eighth year in a row we attended.  As I say every year, there were more nerds than you can shake a light saber at.

For those unfamiliar with ComicCon ( it is the largest convention for comic books in the world.  However, it covers a great deal more.  Science fiction and fantasy TV and movies are heavily represented.  These are usually tied in with comics and animation.  There is also a strong tie in with video games.  For the fourth straight year ComicCon was sold out for all four days with attendance of 125,000 each day.  It is the largest convention throughout the year for the city of San Diego.

The show began 43 years ago as a small convention for Sci-Fi fans focused on comics and literature.  It has ballooned into a huge media event attracting TV and movie producers to promote their work.  These productions usually have a tie in with comics and Sci-Fi, but Comic-Con has expanded to pull in other pop culture media.

Content is King!  Without enough material there is little incentive to buy the hardware.  What consumers want to see and how they want to interact with it drives the development of the electronics.  It is not surprising that many attendees are technically savvy early adopters.

ComicCon 2011

At ComicCon one sees the rich source material for new entertainment.  This is very important for the video game market.  The fans of the sci-fi/comic genre want cutting edge graphics and special effects.  They represent a key segment of the video game market.  ComicCon is a venue for previewing many new upcoming games for the holiday season.

Many new games were being demoed for all of the video game consoles, the handheld games and PC platform.  These have ever-increasing levels of graphics, explosions and interaction.  There were several panels for attendees to listen to and ask questions of the game developers.  The gaming has outgrown the convention center.  While there were demos in the exhibit hall, many companies had larger showcases offsite.  Nintendo and Microsoft used these venues to show off the latest games for Wii and Kinect.  These drew large crowds.  However, it was rather perplexing to find that Sony had no alternate venue outside the convention center.  In fact the only games being demoed for Sony were for Playstation 3.  There were no demos for the Playstation 3 Move.  This is the motion sensing technology that Sony was showing off at last year’s ComicCon.  This does not look promising considering the audience at ComicCon wants to see what will be available during the holiday season.

Sony had a demo for the upcoming video on demand service on the Playstation 3.

The PC gaming area was a bit smaller than prior years.  There were no contests or other type of participatory activity as in the past.  The real action was off-site.

AMD Makes a Big Splash at ComicCon 2011

This year AMD made its presence known at ComicCon.  It was the sponsor for the annual Eisner Awards, the “Oscars” of the comics industry.  More importantly, AMD had a large demo area for PC gaming at the Omni Hotel.  In addition, across the street at a local pub more demos were available.  AMD was drawing numerous attendees to these locations.  An AMD marketing manager said to me that he was pleasantly surprised not only at the number of people visiting but also how many were technically savvy and were interested in the platform details.

AMD was showing off a wide variety of systems.  One impressive platform was a gaming desktop featuring the upcoming FX processor (Bulldozer series) with 8 cores on one chip manufactured on 32nm.  It had an advanced ATI graphics card that is currently available and driving three panels as a single monitor for a panoramic effect.  The most amazing part is that the box (excluding monitors) retails between $699 and $999.  The FX processors will be available later this summer.

AMD also showed off the current family of Phenom II and Radeon GPUs for desktops.  These continue to improve and offer impressive performance at competitive prices.  Of particular note were the notebooks with the recent A-series of APUs.  This is the Fusion family which integrates the CPU and GPU functions.  An ATI graphics card is included.  AMD’s technology allows the two graphics engines to work together resulting in greatly improved performance.  In most other PCs an external GPU will just disable the integrated GPU.  This is also the first time that I have seen gaming notebooks at ComicCon.  There is now enough horsepower for notebooks to be serious gaming machines.  Also on display was a tablet PC design based on the Brazos platform.  This features the C-series and E-series APUs (codenamed Ontario).  The interesting feature of this tablet PC is that it attaches to a keyboard docking station.


Like last year, there were a few 3D gaming demos, but nothing for 3D TV.  Sony is a major exhibitor at ComicCon and can tap into its broad product spectrum from movies and TV content to consumer electronics.  It appears there is little marketing effort for 3D TV.  There is not enough content yet.  I do not expect this holiday season will be a big push for 3D TV.

Future for Comics

How will comics fare in this changing world?  This industry is still producing print content even while presenting futuristic themes.  One panel featuring long-time comic book writers admitted that they will be going digital.  A vision of this future was on display at the DC Comics booth.  The company was showing off their comics on iPads.

ComicCon International is a whirlwind of activity.  It can be an overwhelming flood of visual and audio stimuli.  One sees Harry Potter reading a Kindle, a Star Wars storm trooper checking the schedule on his iPhone and attendees tweeting or posting to Facebook so they can win a prize.  This is an event that I find provides insight into how our popular activities and electronics become intertwined.


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