For the last few years, each Worldwide Developer’s Conference has sold out in successively less and less time. Three years ago, WWDC sold out in a month. Two years ago, it sold out in a week. Last year, it took twelve hours.
Everyone knew WWDC 2012 would sell out even faster than last year’s when it was eventually announced, but it’s obvious even Apple didn’t anticipate how fast that would be: less than two hours to sell out 5,000 tickets.
The problem? Cupertino-based Apple announced WWDC ticket sales before its own time zone even rolled out of bed and brushed its teeth. The result is that West Coast based app devs — the kind who can just climb in their cars and drive to the Moscone Center — have been totally boned, and tickets to WWDC were gone before they even knew they were available for sale.
Imagine you’re a West Coast based app developer eagerly looking forward to networking with your peers and attending workshops at this year’s WWDC. You’ve been itching to buy tickets to the event for months, and even have a couple grand set aside specifically for the task.
The only problem? Apple’s taking much longer this year to announce their annual developer’s conference than usual. Last year, they announced it in late March. This year, it’s late April and there’s still, with customary Cupertino silence, no word on when tickets will go on sale. No countdown. No hints. Nothing.
This morning, you climb into your car, put on some tunes and drive to the office. As you’re sitting in traffic, you check Twitter and see that Apple has put WWDC tickets on sale at long last. You put your pedal to the metal, rush to the office, but by the time you arrive, the tickets are already sold out.
And that’s the best case scenario. The reality is, most west coast app developers probably didn’t even know WWDC tickets had gone on sale until after they were sold out.
The problem is simple. Apple handles the announcement of WWDC with the same tight-lipped secrecy that they handle a new iPhone launch. But unlike an iPhone launch, there’s only 5000 tickets to WWDC each year. If you miss out on the initial ordering frenzy, it’s not like you can just wait a while and get one later. WWDC tickets are a truly finite commodity.
In the past, this wasn’t a huge issue. The expensive ticket price kept out the gawkers and limited WWDC’s audience to the true professionals. But with the success of the iOS and Mac App Stores, app development has just exploded. 5,000 tickets is no longer enough to last a month, or even a day. There are hundreds of thousands of app developers around the world now. Those tickets are going to go in the blink of an eye.
So when Apple just suddenly surprised everyone by announcing WWDC one morning at 05:45AM Pacific Time, they screwed over the app developers in their own neighborhood with their secrecy. And since Apple forbids WWDC ticket resale, app developers in Los Angeles, or Silicon Valley or even Cupertino itself are now shit out of luck when it comes to attending this year. They never even had a chance to order tickets. And that goes for developers in other places too: Japan, New Zealand, Australia, etc. They were all sleeping when Apple made the announcement. At least last year, the 5,000 tickets remained on sale for half-a-day, long enough for anyone in the world to have a reasonable chance at buying one.
Apple clearly didn’t mean to leave devs out of WWDC this year. WWDC’s a victim of its own success. Still, that’s small comfort to the thousands of app devs who never got a chance to buy tickets for the most important iOS and Mac developer conference of the year.
What makes this extra galling is that Apple has had the Moscone Center booked for WWDC since at least March 12th. If Apple wasn’t so obsessed with secrecy, they could have given developers a head’s up that tickets were going on sale as early as a month and a half ago. Devs who wanted to go could have set their alarms and started refreshing the WWDC page at the pre-announced time. Instead, though, Apple took everyone by surprise, and if you didn’t happen to be in a part of the world that was awake when Apple made the announcement, well, you just don’t get to go to WWDC no matter who you are.
There’s no other way to say this: Apple fucked up. They should have seen this coming. Let’s hope next year, Apple handles WWDC ticket sales a little better. If they don’t, if you don’t happen to be in front of your computer the very minute they go on sale, fat chance of getting in.