AFA '12: Sword Art Online Fans Wipe Merch Out On Day 1

Sword Art Online (SAO) fans thronged the booth for their fandom’s merchandise on the first day of Anime Festival Asia 2012, creating a queue that snaked not just around the booth’s floor space, but up and down the entire length of the hall as well.

Excited fans waited in line the moment the doors to the con opened at 9am, and cleared the day’s stock of free gifts-with-purchase within the first hour. The booth sold out of its first item within the next.

“We expected a big crowd, but didn’t expect this response,” said Darren Tan, Business Development Director of Genesis Frontier, the local distributor for Sword Art Online merchandise. AFA ’12 was the first time SAO merch was being sold at a retail front.

“It’s very rare to get Sword Art Online merchandise in Singapore,” said 15 year old Abner, a student who had been queuing for 3 hours and 31 minutes when we spoke to him. He had been waiting in line since the doors opened, and still had at least an estimated 100 people to go. Abner told us that the AFA last year had “more relaxed” queues.

“This year has more hardcore fans,” he said. “And Sword Art Online got more popular this year, I guess.” In his five years of attending AFA, this was Abner’s first time experiencing such a queue.

When we spoke to the organisers at 3.15pm, we were told that stock of the merchandise had been almost cleaned out. Only two shelves of items were left. Genesis Frontier had even brought in the next day’s stock to cater to the massive crowd that still had not cleared even six hours after the con had opened. As a result of that, the SAO booth will not be restocked for the second day of AFA ’12, and will instead be open for photo opportunities only.

A crowd handler told us that he estimated at least 1,000 visitors had passed through the SAO booth, though looking at the queue, we think there might have been more, especially since Darren told us he believes the SAO queue is the longest one thus far in Anime Festival Asia’s five year history. Genesis Frontier had originally hired just six crowd handlers, but were forced to up the number to twelve to contain the queue.