With the COVID-19 pandemic causing hundreds of cancellations and postponements on the convention calendar, some conventions are pivoting online and holding "virtual conventions". We currently do not list them. Here's why...
When the AnimeCons.com site was created back in late 2003, it was designed as a directory for all the known anime conventions that have ever taken place. I went back into archives and researched what conventions had taken place in the past and I added new conventions that were going to take place in the future. The database quickly grew to over 1,000 entries.
Over the years, I've refined the criteria for inclusion. For example, an event had to be so many hours long in order to rule out cosplay gatherings that called themselves "cons". Later, I started getting submissions for month-long anime art shows, so I had to refine the policy again since the site is designed for short events that typically take place over a weekend. When Facebook came along, some tiny events popped up with Facebook event pages that referred to themselves as "cons", so I implemented a rule that conventions needed to have an actual web site and not simply a Facebook event listing. The AnimeCons.com site also restricted submissions to only anime conventions or conventions with anime programming, but eventually we launched FanCons.com to handle listings for all fan conventions rather than restrict ourselves to just anime cons.
With real-world conventions, there have been literal decades of history to look back on and use to establish criteria on what should and should not qualify a convention for inclusion in the database. (You can find a list of these in our Policy on Listed Events" linked from our convention submission page.) Unfortunately, for online conventions, there's not much history to look back on.
After I started entering more and more non-anime fan conventions into the database, I thought back to the three online conventions which the Sci-Fi Channel ran between 1996 and 1998. "SCIFI.CON", as it was called, had online (text) chats with people from Sci-Fi Channel shows, exclusive content supplied by fan site creators, a charity auction, and more. I still had the T-shirts from the first two of these which they sent as thanks for helping to provide content. To the best of my knowledge, these were the first conventions held entirely online. I wondered for quite a while if I should enter SCIFI.CON as a convention in the database so that the event wouldn't be forgotten. I eventually decided against it. As much fun as it was to be able to join IRC chats with stars of some of the shows, chat with other fans of Sci-Fi Channel shows, take trivia quizzes, and as notable as SCIFI.CON may be for being the first (or at least one of the first) online conventions, it really wasn't a traditional convention...and if I allowed that, what future "online conventions" might I have to consider?
Now, more than two decades after the last SCIFI.CON took place, we're in a world that is sheltering-in-place and largely confined to their homes until the Coronavirus pandemic passes us by. With every convention having been cancelled after March 15th, throughout April, and for who knows how much longer, some conventions are going online. We've received submissions for several of these online conventions and I've rejected them. Not because I don't wish them the best of luck, but because it's a rabbit hole I really don't want to go down.
Some of these online conventions are elaborately planned events that take place over the course of a weekend and feature streaming video of panels, links to dealers offering special sales, links to artists selling their wares, and event costume contests of one form or another. These are as close as you can get to being at a convention without leaving your home and I commend these organizers for their efforts.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are some conventions that are being a little more loose with the definition of "convention". They may only have a couple live streams planned, maybe they only have a list of links to dealers and artists and are referring to that as the "online convention", or some are taking place over the course of weeks. There's really no standard online convention...and therein lies the issue.
If FanCons.com (and all its other associated sites) began accepting listings for online conventions, what qualifies? Does some lone guy in his room playing Fortnite and talking to his Twitch chat room qualify as "BobCon 2020"? If YattaCon is planning nightly guest panels over the course of two weeks as their virtual convention, does that mean it should be listed over two entire weeks of the convention calendar? Where do we draw the lines? Frankly, the site's just not designed to list online conventions.
I wish these online virtual conventions the best of luck, but we're not going to be adding them to our database...even if that means the convention calendar will be coming up empty for a while.
UPDATE: Starting in 2021, we have begun to mark conventions that have cancelled their physical, in-person conventions and are holding online events instead. These conventions will no longer be marked "Cancelled" and will now be marked as "Moved Online". However, we still will not list conventions that never announced a location and date for a physical, in-person convention.
Patrick Delahanty is the creator of FanCons.com and executive producer of AnimeCons TV. He is one of the founders of both Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference. Patrick has attended 189 real world conventions and three virtual conventions.