What Really Happened with WWDC Ticket Sales

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Yesterday, Apple announced the sale of tickets for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at 5:30 AM PDT. They were sold out less than two hours later, leaving most people on the west coast of the U.S. to discover that tickets were gone before they even woke up. In other words, many of the developers who live in Apple’s backyard of Silicon Valley or in the San Francisco area where the WWDC will be held, will be unable to attend.

At first look, this didn’t strike me as a fair or wise way to have handled the ticket sales. What exactly was Apple thinking?

Many west cost developers are missing out on WWDC this yearMany west cost developers are missing out on WWDC this year

According to John Martellaro, my colleague here at The Mac Observer, “events unfolded exactly as Apple wished…The developer community in California can darn well fend for itself. Young developers, in Apple’s view, don’t mind jumping out of bed at 5:30 in the morning.” If not, Apple is telling developers that “WWDC isn’t for you. You’re not developer material.”

I beg to differ. No one outside of Apple knows for sure what Apple’s thoughts were regarding this matter. But I would be very surprised if they were anything as harsh as John suggests.

I believe a simpler and more benign explanation is more likely: Apple miscalculated. Last year, tickets for WWDC similarly went on sale about 5:30 AM PDT. They too sold out on the first day, but not until the evening, giving people on the West Coast a chance to grab a ticket.

Apple might well have anticipated that ticket sales would be even brisker this year. In response, they tightened the rules regarding reselling tickets. As I understand it, if you purchased a ticket this year, only you can use it. Last year, you could sell your ticket before you activated it, allowing people to scalp tickets on eBay and such. This reselling isn’t going to fly this year.

Tickets this year were also limited to “one per person and five per organization,” a restriction that I don’t believe was in effect last year. This has led to a few odd cases of ticket purchases being cancelled for what Apple claimed were violations of the multiple-purchases rule.

Apple likely assumed that these new limitations would dampen the initial rush of ticket purchases, softening the expected overall increase in demand. In the end, if all went about as planned, tickets would again sell out somewhere near the close of the day — not within the first few hours. All would be well.

Unfortunately, demand was much higher than anticipated (a common phenomenon with almost anything associated with Apple these days). The result was that West Coast developers were shut out, something that Apple did not want or intend.

What might Apple do next year to avoid this same result?

One possibility is that they do nothing. Let the chips fall where they may. Whatever Apple may or may not have intended, they certainly aren’t being hurt by the result. Any other company in the world would love to have Apple’s “problem”: host an event for $1600 a ticket and sell out in two hours.

If Apple did care to do something, they could delay the opening bell until maybe 8:00 AM PDT. Or they could announce the day before that tickets will be going on sale at 5:30 PDT the next morning. Some have suggested that Apple hold a ticket lottery; Apple has never done anything like that and I don’t see them going this route.

Still, unless Apple enlarges the event, none of the potential solutions resolve the fundamental problem. The number of available tickets remains at about 5,000. If Apple delayed the start of sales by a few hours, it would improve the odds that West Coast developers would be able to snag a ticket. But that only means some other developers would lose out. It’s not as if everyone who orders a ticket in the first two hours is guaranteed to get one. Once the seats are gone, there are no more to be had. Next year, WWDC could sell out in 10 minutes.

That’s why no matter what Apple does, there are going to be a lot of unhappy developers. There’s no avoiding that.

[Some images courtesy Shutterstock]

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Join the TMO Express Daily Newsletter to get the latest Mac headlines in your e-mail every weekday.

Comments

jameskatt

If you develop for OS X or iOS, you SHOULD realize that the tickets are going to be sold at 5:30 AM PDT.

There is NO EXCUSE for not realizing this.

Making an excuse that this is too early a time for West Coast Developers is also not an excuse.

What about Hawaiian Developers who are 3 hours earlier than West Coast Developers?  What about China, Japan, Australia’s developers? Etc. Etc.

Just like waiting for Jesus’s second coming, you have to be ready at ANY TIME.  No excuses.

Lee Dronick

Making an excuse that this is too early a time for West Coast Developers is also not an excuse.

They might not even have gone to bed yet smile

Apple could work something out. Setting blocks aside for developers in certain timezones, then opening up any leftovers. A raffle system.

It is like try to get tickets to Comic-Con here in San Diego.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

What nobody is saying is that WWDC has jumped the shark in Apple’s mind, just like (sorry TMO guys, I know you’re invested in it) MacWorld.

This may sound weird, but WWDC is no longer about Apple. It’s a ridiculously huge undertaking. It grinds many important engineers’ time to a halt for the better part of a month. And they have to settle for a small sample of the developer base who shave their balls with weed eaters and get their recommended daily allowance of fiber every dog-damned day.

Maybe not next year, but in 2014, look for Apple to stop doing WWDC, start having a summer product launch that they charge people $500 to attend, and move developer events to local stores and a roadshow.

R. L.

Real story: Apple attempted to stop people from buying more than 1 ticket for themselves and then selling the additional ticket(s) on eBay for an inflated price. That happened last year. So this year it was one ticket per customer. The BIG mistake was that Apple chose to cancel any ticket bought with the same credit card. That hosed people that all used a “company credit card” to pay for individual tickets with separate Apple IDs within one company. Apple should have disallowed more than one ticker per Apple ID, not filter by credit card number. HUGE MISTAKE APPLE!

prl53

I’m one of those west coast guys. I didn’t receive my email announcing WWDC until 6:45am PDT so unless I was logged onto an ADC forum or something similar, how would I have known the tickets went on sale two hours earlier? When did the east coast people get their email, before 8:30 EDT?

Mark

I live in SF, but I was fortunate enough to get a ticket. I didn’t receive the email announcement from Apple until 6:50am PDT—so I only made it in by 37 minutes.  I’d set up an SMS alert (my own), and it’s probably the only time I’ve ever been thankful to be awakened by a text message.

I saw on Twitter that some devs didn’t receive their announcement emails until ~9am PDT. That must have stung for those that then tried to buy a ticket.  I imagine it takes a quite a while to send out several hundred thousand emails to all the developers.

There’s no great solution, but I think announcing when tickets will go on sale several days in advance is more reasonable. Then it will just like trying to buy tickets to a Radiohead concert :/

Wayne

Wow what a parochial piece of writing Ted. It seems to have totally slipped your mind that WWDC is short for The WORLDWIDE Developers Conference.  While it’s terrific you feel bad for West Coast denizens, not once do you mention any other country. Begs the question where were you last year when three quarters of the words devs missed out due to similarly ‘inconvenient’ scheduling? Hmm? smile
There was no miscalculation Apple knew this and this was their mea culpa.

Ted Landau

Wow what a parochial piece of writing Ted.

I think you’re overreacting a bit.

First, I argued that West Coasters deserved a “special case” status because they are the “local” market. It is also an area heavily populated with tech people in general and Apple developers in particular ? probably more than any other place in the world.

That said, I still conceded to your viewpoint in the last paragraph, where I wrote: “...But that only means some other developers would lose out.”

In any case, I disagree that this was some deliberate “mea culpa” action on Apple’s part. Apple doesn’t do “mea culpa” and one wasn’t needed anyway.

JohnnyO

First, I argued that West Coasters deserved a ?special case? status because they are the ?local? market. It is also an area heavily populated with tech people in general and Apple developers in particular ? probably more than any other place in the world.

I suppose you could also reason that -because- the West Coast of the US is heavily populated with Apple developers, West Coast developers have the weakest need for the value WWDC brings.  For example, if an iOS developer in Prague or Miami have questions, there are a lot fewer people to turn to for assistance in those areas.

Ted Landau

I suppose you could also reason that -because- the West Coast of the US is heavily populated with Apple developers, West Coast developers have the weakest need for the value WWDC brings.?

Someone could certainly argue that. It just wouldn’t be me. smile

Paolo D

Why don’t they simply do another identical event, one or two months later, just without the keynote ?
The developers are just interested in taking lessons; the keynote & product presentation is the less interesting part ...

Ted Landau

Why don?t they simply do another identical event, one or two months later, just without the keynote ?

It’s an enormous expense for Apple to do WWDC. And all developers essentially get week off from whatever they would otherwise be doing. Not likely Apple would do two in one year. More likely that they stop doing WWDC altogether.

Log-in to comment