Wizard World Chicago wrapped up on Sunday, sandwiched between a bigger than ever San Diego Comic-Con (see 'San Diego Comic-Con a Hot Time'), which ended only nine days before Wizard World kicked off (as more than one tired exhibitor informed me); Otakon, the second largest anime show in the country, the same weekend; and GenCon, the nation's largest game show, which begins on Thursday. 


With that kind of schedule, it was no wonder that exhibitors from multiple categories were road-weary and cranky.  And maybe that's why we heard from exhibitors and dealers that Wizard World Chicago seemed generally down this year, with both floor traffic and sales on the floor less than 2005's. 


The space on the floor seemed somewhat smaller, although more compact, with everything in the main hall this year; so the general view of down attendance wasn't a matter of more exhibitors splitting up the available attendees into thinner portions. 


The schedule undoubtedly had an impact on Wizard World's flagship show.  It was tough for comic companies to bring out the guests they'd had on the road only two weeks before in San Diego.  Game companies were distracted by preparations for GenCon.  And the anime and manga presence in Chicago was pretty light, with most companies in those categories opting for the otaku audience at Otakon. 


That's not to say there weren't a lot of people at the show.  Bob Burden said of the Saturday crowds, 'It was like a buzz saw factory in here.'  We take that as a good thing, and we also heard from another exhibitor that wasn't at the show in 2005 that they were very pleased with the weekend's crowds.  Floor traffic on the preview night on Thursday was also reported to be very good.


And the devoted nature of the weekend's attendees was also noted.  'Attendance may have been down a little,' a spokesperson for a major comic publisher said, 'but the fans that attend this show are true fans, and are almost all interested in what we're offering.' 


The atmosphere may have been a little more testosterone-laden than usual, with Spike TV's two story booth on the way into the hall, and an IFL ring (see 'Gareb Shamus Founds Mixed Martial Arts League') and nearby merchandise stand dominating the center of the exhibitor area of the show floor.


Another change this year was the major reduction in bootleg videos on the floor.  We only saw a few suspicious looking tables, as opposed to the more wide-open traffic that was typical in previous years.  This was undoubtedly a result of the well-publicized crackdown at another Midwestern show earlier this year (see 'Marcus King of Titan Games on the Motor City Con Busts'). 


Wizard has not yet announced its attendance, and may yet pull out a 2006 increase.  But regardless of where it ends up this year, there is no competition that is close to overtaking Wizard World Chicago, which traces its lineage back through Chicago Comicon as one of the oldest continuously running comic conventions, as the pre-eminent Midwest comic show.