We've seen a few people saying that Anime Expo is doomed. Quite aside from the fact that predictions of doom have a terrible track record, we think that AX has unique advantages that these prognosticators are overlooking. (And we've made some silly predictions in the past, so we know what we're talking about. It's like Tarantino said: "The less a man makes declarative statements, the less apt he is to look foolish in retrospect.")
First, AX has an attractive venue. I think that people miss the immense appeal of the Nokia Theater and Club Nokia to Japanese guests. It's a draw, and it's allowed AX to bring in guests that people really want to see. (This year, Miku and Kalafina).
Another element that makes the venue attractive is that it brings in more Japanese media than any other convention. There's a bunch of attractive industry coverage for the guests, and a bunch of opportunities for animation producers to network with their peers.
Second, AX has the support of an older generation. A quieter, more elegant, less excitable older audience with some disposable income. From our perspective as grizzled veterans -- and it's only our personal opinion -- AM2's focus on costs makes it seem cut-rate, like it's trying to appeal to kids.
I know, that sounds silly to anyone who's walked the halls and seen the crowds of kids fresh from school -- but it's true in a way that goes beyond initial impressions. For evidence, look no further than AX's having completely sold out of premium badges, mostly to older fans who decided that they had better things to do than wait in line.
The older crowd's a little less visible. They don't hang out on forums, don't complain as much on the web -- but their opinion still matters, because they're willing to back it up with their spending decisions.
This is the advantage of an established con: a pool of people who've been going to it for years, who are used to attending, and are old enough to have substantial disposable income.
It's like the game industry. At some point, game companies realized that, for all the complaints from the school-age crowd, the people who actually bought games were in their late 20s and 30s, with steady jobs. So they started focusing on those people, because they actually bought games.
Finally, AX has inertia. It sounds silly to us, but often things are big just because they've been big in the past. It's what Warren Buffet would call a "moat". People go to AX and continue to go to AX because there are people to meet there, events to see, costumes to wear. It's not something they should get complacent about, but it's a definite obstacle for any challenger.
For just one example, AX tends to be when the industry does its biggest promotions. There are more premieres, more giveaways, more contests and special events.
For another, it's when cosplayers showcase their best, most elaborate costumes, simply because it's when their friends will see and photograph them. It's inertia, plain and simple, but to deny it would be folly.
This is part of an ongoing series on the runup to AX 2011. Please read the others if you'd like.