So RT Events just released the prices for RTX Austin 2018 and figured I'd share some information I've acquired from going to the last 3 RTX's. Once as a regular weekend pass holder and 2 times as a VIP member. This year I intend to make it my fourth RTX as probably a regular member or maybe weekend+ if I'm feeling cheeky. But as with every year I know there will be a lot of people where 2018 will be there first RTX or people who have gone to prior RTX's and want to know if the higher tier of tickets are worth the significant markup in price.
This post will explain the full prices I've paid in the past to give you an idea of how much things actually cost when you're going to put in your credit card info. The badges themselves, hotel stay, Airbnb rates, etc. I will also go into detail about what wait times are really like, and not just for scheduled panels, but wait times for everything around the convention as well as the whole city will become one giant line for things.
I also want to make clear if it wasn't already evident from the multiple RTX's I've attended, I'm a fan of Roosterteeth. That being said, I'm not a blindly devoted fan so I will be brutally honest of my experiences and you can judge whether the value proposition is there for yourself. I'll say this off the bat. I've never had a bad time at an RTX. I've had RTX's experiences which weren't as enjoyable as other RTX experiences but I never left one thinking I wasted my money.
Speaking about money let's talk prices. So for those that are double gold or first members who make use of the "early bird" discount for tickets and want that Platinum badge (formally VIP), you will be paying $650 base price for a badge per person. Last year the base price for a VIP badge was $575. That's a $75 markup from last year that included a concert performance in the price.
Also last year, front gate, the third party vendor Roosterteeth is now using for ticket sales for their live events, charged a $71.69 service fee PER badge sold. Last year I bought VIP passes for 4 people. This means, at $575 a badge + $71.69 a badge the total I spent on badges alone was $2586.76.
If Front Gate keeps the same service fee structure, that means 4 Platinum badges + the $71.69 fee per badge would cost $2886.76.
Now obviously these values vary depending on how many people you're buying badges for. If it's just yourself then you'll just be paying $650 + $71.69 (if the fee stays the same as last year). This year they plan on mailing the badges which means there most likely will be a subsequent fee added for postage (and my guess is this fee won't be the cost of a stamp either).
Point is, if you're not comfortable spending at least $721.69 for a single pass (going by early bird prices, it would be just about $800 for regular pricing) then you might want to consider not going with Platinum.
How about accommodations? Well in 2016 I paid for 4 nights in the Austin Hilton near the convention center. The discounted rate offered that year was $104.50 per person a night. This meant for 2 people over 4 nights the HIlton cost me $836. Rates were similar for the Mariott that year and I believe are comparable to what the rates were in 2017. In 2017 my friends and I stayed in an Airbnb which was a few blocks down congress. My contribution was $395. Prices obviously vary on how many people you split with and what Airbnb you go with. Generally the further away from the convention center and the less fancy the home the cheaper it will be.
Also have to factor in air travel if you don't live within driving distance of Austin. For me in San Diego I used Southwest Airlines in 2017 and paid $439 direct flight. Price obviously varies by number of tickets you buy, what Airline you go with, distance from Austin, etc.
So total I spent in 2017 on badges, accommodations, and airfare was $3420.76.
Those charges do not include anything you might buy at the RT store, which generally are NOT discounted at RTX. So if you're wanting to get new posters, glasses, shirts, etc, this will most likely add anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds depending on how nuts you go in the RT Store. There's also the show floor where outside people will also be selling their nerd wares n such.
There's also the price of getting around to consider. Last year Uber and Lift came back to Austin so if you plan on going anywhere in Austin outside of just places close to the convention center expect surge pricing to be in effect wherever you go.
Food is also not cheap in Austin. If you want to go to all the well known places Burnie has talked about on vlogs or you've read on RTX guides, expect to be dropping north of $50 per lunch/dinner depending on the number of people and how much you eat/drink obviously. For the 4 of us, our bills were frequently north of $100 but obviously we split based on what we got. I normally paid anywhere between $20 to $50 depending on where we ate. Fast food places obviously will have cheaper food, I'm talking about actual bars or hot spots.
RTX Panel Wait Experiences
Now that I've given you guys an understanding of how much things actually cost, I'll lay out where that value went the last few years.
In RTX 2015 I was a regular member. Back then we were frequently told to show up to panels 1 hour before the panel was to begin because nobody would be allowed to wait in line before that time. What ended up happening is people would show up frequently 3+ hours ahead of time and form a "soft line". Which really just means a line that wasn't allowed to line up in the guardian designated line area. This was the case for all popular panels. Consider popular panels to be any of RT's mainstay content. RT Podcast. Achievement Hunter. RWBY cast. Red vs Blue cast. On The Spot. Off Topic. Always Open. Funhaus. You get the idea. More specific panels like live action, or panels about specific topics like drawing, writing, scheduling, etc could frequently be attended without having to wait 3 hours. They either could just be walked into with little notice or had a minor wait. I'd still show up to these panels an hour early just to test the water and if they're empty come back to it.
The important bit of information here for people who want to go to the popular panels. IF YOU SHOW UP 1 HOUR BEFORE A PANEL STARTS, YOU WILL LIKELY NOT BE ABLE TO SEE THAT PANEL. The unfortunate side effect of sooo many people showing up to this convention now means that more people end up waiting in these "soft" lines. So that when the official "1 hour before" time period starts, all that happens is the Guardians allow the soft line people to fill up the regular line. So when RT releases the full RTX schedule with panel times, please take into account the wait times for any given panel. If you think you're going to see it all as a regular member, not even close. Plan to see 1-2 panels tops and that's only if they're very far spaced apart in the day if you only plan on seeing the very popular ones.
What the Guardians did last year, 2017 is when that 1 hour before the panel started time came they'd let people into the large panel rooms and we'd wait there until the panel started.
I had a VIP pass the last 2 years and my experiences as far as panels go were very different from each year. In 2016 there were I believe between 300-500 VIPs. I might be off from the real values since RT doesn't make them clear but judging from amount of people I would see going into very popular panels, that seems right. In 2016 I never had a problem attending a panel. Any panel. I showed up frequently about 15 to 20 minutes before the start of a panel, would walk right up the line guardian to show my badge and then be able to take my seat at the front but behind the friends/family of RT staff.
In 2017, if I had to guess I'd say there was between 1000-1500 VIP badge holders. Again, no clue the actual number and it was much harder to tell this past year from any one panel. The result was that getting into any of the popular panels was no longer a guarantee as a VIP, even if you showed up an hour early. Panels like Funhaus' panel and Werewolf I believe were completely full even ahead of the 1 hour wait time. For all I know it might have been a 3 hour wait for VIPs for those panels. Obviously less popular panels most likely would still not have much issue getting in.
Supposedly this year RT is limiting the number of Platinum badges being sold to not have a repeat of 2017 but how close it is to 2016's numbers compared to 2017 no idea. I'd put my money on there still being significantly more Platinum sold than VIP badges in 2016. The new tier of Weekend+ probably took up the remaining excess between 2017's VIP and regular pass numbers.
Regardless whether you are a VIP or regular weekly badge holder I strongly recommend bringing a handheld gaming device of some kind. A DS, a Switch, a Vita (if you're Greg), your phone, a tablet whatever. Things like card games like million dollars but, Superfight, CAH, or board games could work as well but are tricky when the line starts moving. If you're in a 3+ hour line, sure. Otherwise I wouldn't bother bringing stuff you have to pick up. You won't really be able to play any of these kind of games as you wait inside a panel for it to start as the seats make that impossible.
Also regarding waits, expect any popular food cart, BBQ restaurant, or other Austin hotspot place to eat to have significant wait times. You could be waiting for a hotdog for over an hour so plan accordingly. As I said earlier, all of Austin will become a line during RTX so possibly use open table and make reservations if you can.
The exception to this is 6th street. There are dozens upon dozens of bars here. If one seems overly crowded keep walking down the street and you'll find one that's more open eventually. They close down the street for people to walk around at night.
For people who want to know what the lounge is, it has significantly changed from 2015 - 2016 - 2017. First off, the lounge is a closed off area where VIP (or this year Platinum and weekend+ badge holders) can relax in nice soft sofas or seats, pay for something to drink at the cash bar, eat some snacks, and potentially get stuff signed by an impromptu visit from an RT staff member. What staff member appears is completely up to the RT staff member that wants to visit.
In 2015 I was just a regular member but from second hand sources I heard that the room was adjacent to the actual RT staff green/staging room. This meant a lot more throughput of RT staff would visit the VIP area because it was right next to where various staff were waiting for their panels or relaxing.
In 2016 the VIP "lounge" (prison) was a small enclosed area within the main exhibit hall floor. It had a few comfy seats in it and some stand up tables. It had a cash bar and the only RT staff I remember seeing there was Jack Patillo and Caiti. There was most likely other staff but seeing as the lounge was very out of the way from where most RT staff would have been moving through (they stick mostly to the back hallways that link the various rooms to get around easier) it meant much lower throughput.
In 2017 the VIP lounge was a much larger room that was behind I believe the main panel room. There were sofas and comfortable chairs (could have used more sofas). They had a few arcade cabinets in there, an air hockey table. Free popcorn and pretzels, and a cash bar. They also had a photo booth thing in the room. There was also a screen which would show certain panels happening at that time. I didn't stop in the lounge very often last year but in the brief time I was in there Gavin was in there and I believe Barbara stopped by. Since the location was not on the hall floor and close to a big panel room the throughput was most likely much higher of RT staff and overall it was a far improved space.
If I had to guess for 2018, they'll probably use the same space as the VIP lounge but I don't know for sure.
RTX Exhibit Hall Floor
From 2015-2017 my floor experience has been pretty consistent. Though with the caveat that last year the metal detectors caused some massive delays to entering the floor. However by the next day RT for the most part solved the worst of the issues and this year I suspect the metal detectors to not be much of an issue at all (be aware for any cosplay props you'll need to check those in to be able to take them on the floor. They're getting much more serious about this).
The floor will contain various vendors selling shirts, plushies, toys, retro gaming stuff etc. It will also contain developers for various game studios. So far over the last 3 years the gaming presence has been fairly limited to smaller dev studios. Even when bigger guys show up like Microsoft it's usually not in any way comparable to the big publishers exhibits at PAX. Because of this, expect their to be significant wait times for most gaming stations at booths as there will frequently only be a small handful of computers or consoles available to play on.
There's also center stage where live let's plays will happen. To be honest with you over 3 RTX's I rarely experienced center stage content. There was usually a panel going on and watching a let's play live is a so-so experience (and it's not like Let's Play Live where scripted things are done to keep things lively). This area generally fills up pretty quickly, especially if AH or Funhaus are on stage or if they're doing a special presentation type thing. Last year Andy Serkis was on Center Stage talking about Performance Capture in movies. While the seats often fill up very quickly center stage is often put in an area where there's a lot of room to mill about behind the seats so if you have good vision you can still see the screens pretty clearly standing up.
Platinum and weekend+ badge holders this year will get priority seating for center stage so if watching live let's plays interests you, then this could be a nice perk.
The floor will also have the main Achievement Hunter and Funhaus areas where occasionally members of AH and Funhaus will show up to sign stuff. They usually also have stuff around for people to play with, get pictures of, or interact with in some way.
For VIP badge holders the last few years, RT held an exclusive party. I experienced the 2016 party and the 2017 party and my experiences were pretty different.
In 2016 we were in the SpeakEasy bar. It had 3 levels to it, and was open bar (certain drinks) for the party. What was great was that many RT personalities and staff were present all throughout the night and were very approachable for conversations. My friends and I had full length conversations with Barbara, Geoff, Joel, Miles, Kerry, and Griffon Ramsey. Each floor had a DJ and plenty of bar space for people.
2017's party was held in Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater. That was more an open floor space that was entirely outside for VIP badge holders (and remember, this year there were many) that had a big stage area where a popular cover band was performing (Spazmatics if I remember correctly). The open area had food areas that BBQ stuff and beer/liquor could be purchased from (I think there was 1 free meal ticket that came with entrance). Stubbs also has a more regular enclosed restaurant area but that was completely off limits to VIP badge holders. Roosterteeth staff had booked the entire space and while some RT staff did venture out into the crowd at points during the night, the majority of RT staff stayed secluded in the restaurant (not blaming them, it's exhausting being surrounded, just saying what the experience was). The few RT staff that did join the crowd were pretty unapproachable unless you already knew they were there as they would be completely surrounded by people and very hard to get to if you didn't realize they were there. Later in the night my friends and I weaseled our way closer to the no VIP area and managed to be able to talk with some people (including the cast of Day 5) and some of RT's animators.
Point is, if you want to mingle with RT people, 2016 was the far better experience. From what I've heard so far of 2018's VIP party it sounds like it's going to go back to being at a bar (there's an 18+ age limit which 2017's party did not have, though technically that's still not drinking age so who knows) but to early to tell. I think RT agrees that being completely secluded from the VIP people was not the right decision.
Other Stuff Outside the Convention Center
Every year there is usually other stuff happening outside the convention center that being VIP (this year Platinum) usually gives you first dibs to but otherwise is open to the general RTX public. These events in past years were a live Theater Mode production. A screening of the last Planet of the Apes movie (before it premiered elsewhere). Usually a concert of some sort that may or may not include a major headliner. I also believe there was a live Always Open last year.
And if you show up early enough there's usually some kind of shoot happening involving a decent amount of RTX people. That could be for an RT short, a longer form RT live action thing (like Day 5 or Lazer Team) or Immersion.
Much like the panels, you're going to want to show up pretty early for any signings. If you are a VIP badge holder (this year Platinum and Weekend+) then you get 2 signings. Certain people tend to disappear really fast so I would suggest having some backups of who you want to sign stuff. And when the time comes to get your autograph I would leave an hour or so earlier than the signing time if you are a regular weekend badge holder.
If you are a VIP (platinum, weekend+) badge holder it depends. In 2016 I didn't have much trouble showing up 20 or so minutes before the signing was to start and waiting in the VIP line. 2017 had way more VIP badges so it took significantly longer. So plan accordingly if you want to get something signed AND see a panel. The VIP badge was significantly faster even in the longer line than had I not had it since the VIP people get there stuff signed before any of the normal weekend pass people.
How much this matters to you depends on how badly you want an RT person to sign your stuff. At this point I've pretty much gotten every RT personality to sign something between RTX and Let's Play Live so the value prop for this is eh for me at this point.
Some other stuff that doesn't really fit in the other sections. If you're into cosplay there will most likely be a cosplay competition like there was in 2017. Generally things that are not on the exhibit hall floor or in a main panel room are done on the upper floors of the convention hall. In previous years they had an interactive 11 little roosters experience. An Achievement Hunter/Cowchop themed heist Escape room. And an Immersion experience that involved the 5 nights at Freddy's like experience Michael and Gavin went through.
For those that have followed along with that gigantic text wall congrats. This just about covers it for everything I can think of sharing regarding RTX. Prices, VIP vs regular badge holder benefits, events around RTX, etc. Obviously deciding whether it's worth it is a subjective call and personally I don't think 2017's VIP experience was worth it's hefty pricetag (it was $75 more expensive than the previous year just like this year's is that much higher) yet I still enjoyed my time overall at RTX that year.
Feel free to ask me anything and I'll help to the best of my ability.