The VTuber Event of the year returns, as OffKai Expo makes its second run—this time at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, California.
We've mentioned a part of the Expo in our latest Weekly NewsDrop, so we will go ahead with our event report with details provided from the venue, including the main stage (which was mostly streamed on Twitch).
Monty Seelana—who covered last year's Expo for the then-VTuber Section and is now a manager for NewsDrop's founding partner Kawa Entertainment—shared to us his notes from the first day of OffKai Expo.
Take a Pose!
Before we get to the stage activities, let us check out the convention area first: Within the vicinity, you can see several places where you can take your photo, such as VTuber standees, set designs from Ironmouse's Speak of the Devil talk show as well as Roy Chiato's bar and the classic VTubeStudio street background placed in a real-life setting.
Outside the venue though, cars dressed in VTuber livery (with the exception of that one classic LoveLive! Yohane itasha) are parked, making that a great spot to get impressed.
How VTuber Groups and Tech Impress Visitors
We go back to the venue and check out which VTuber group invested the most—Phase Connect is no doubt present throughout the weekend with its booths, sets, standees both life-size and acrylic, ready for their fans. Did we mention that they serve coffee too?
If we can pick anything from what Monty has witnessed, here's the one: "It was very clear that Phase Connect wanted to take OffKai by storm and ensure their brand would be woven into everything."
The event's main sponsor Idol looked modest with their arrangements, as their talents met fans at the Vendor Hall. Speaking of Vendor Hall, there are many booths placed in such a space that it took time for visitors to roam around easily.
At the end of the event, all standees were gathered to make one huge group photo.
i accidentally put together a standee party at the vendor hall as things closed down today and that was soooo much fun~ thank you sooooo much for joining in everyone!!!! ❤️💜 #offkaigen2 pic.twitter.com/DkcDILo6AY— melody ✨ in "LA" ✈️ (@stargazermellu) June 19, 2023
Moving to the other activity areas, Brave Group's first English-based VTuber project V4Mirai made its OffKai debut by sponsoring the KaraOKE Room. If you have watched OffKai's Twitch stream, chances are their commercials are giving you instant recall.
VTubers remotely roam around the con as well, with VShojo and Oshi Live leading the way. Aside from collaborating with OffKai Cafe, VShojo CEO Justin "Gunrun" Ignacio was physically present, helping talents roam around remotely.
Oshi Live also provides a similar approach. This time, they are teamed up with the talents of V&U which announced new details at OffKai through their commercial; as well as EIEN Project and Utano Pandora.
In case you'd like to elevate your meet-and-greet experience, Wonderverse also has its amazing setup built at the Community Stage. Each day features a variety of talents from its partners, which makes it all more engaging to participate to. Thanks to this, we saw what VTuber Twister looks like.
According to Monty, the arcade area was set up by Game Saru, which is well-known for renting out their cabinets to conventions. The most notable cabinet was an ONGEKI—one of the rare cabinets which exist outside of Japan made its way to OffKai!
The Best Activities at the Main Stage (Subjective)
- Saturday's OffKai Live, despite the long scuff it had, was one of the best segments of the Main Stage, next to having a choir do what seems to be its opening act medley of VTuber songs. Ironmouse, who was on standby as she continues her subathon with chat, went along and had her concert as is.
- If there's one panel segment that's manically funny, it's got to be Lord Aethelstan's Family Feud-esque VTuber Tussle with co-host Michael Winslow. Getting VTubers with a man of 10,000 sound effects together is a beautiful mess that will make you laugh hard, whether if you're part of the audience or watching the stream.
- The Cosplay Showcase is also amazing—aside from cosplayers dressed up as their favorite VTubers, other VTubers dressed up as themselves. What a treat!
The big events of #OffKaiGen2 - Day 2— Phillip Ho @ #OffKaiGen2 (@PhillipHo_39) June 19, 2023
The Cosplay Showcase featured some creative cosplays and awesome performances/showcases/skits, including a special appearance by @SinderVTuber cosplaying as herself in an awesome showcase!
Don’t mess with the Hellhound Wolf!#Sinferno pic.twitter.com/zbvexWKAZG
Aside from Sinder, a few other VTubers cosplayed as themselves for the #OffKaiGen2 Cosplay Showcase, too!— Phillip Ho @ #OffKaiGen2 (@PhillipHo_39) June 20, 2023
Cosplays & performances by @ustrinasparks, @AmanogawaAku, @DoingDennis, and @SuperSprinkles_ & @MichimelodyVT! pic.twitter.com/ZcjqrnYMTF
One Staff Member's Assessment of What Worked and What Didn't
Capping off this event digest: Now that this is the second time OffKai is being held, we asked the event's guest liaison Mari regarding some of the challenges they had to face as they scale up.
Mari, who is part of the executive team, spoke to us about her personal assessment of this year's event.
Scaling Up OffKai
We understand OffKai did their best to scale the convention to a larger size. From your perspective, how was the process?
"We planned with the assumption and hope to about double our size, from ~700 attendees last year to around 1,500 this year. Our pre-registration numbers supported that as well, however we did end up very close to the 2,000 mark. The new venue was the most important factor for supporting this scale.
"The Hyatt can fit up to 3,000 people on paper, though I think most will agree that we hit a sweet spot of it being busy but not overcrowded during the convention weekend. Our staff increased a lot and we were able to work with some exceptionally dedicated and skilled people that joined us after our Debut [last year], which led to the improved branding, a more comprehensive registration system and a huge AV team.
"Still, we seemed to be understaffed during the event. There was no lack in on-site volunteers but working with VTubers requires a lot of trusted and vetted staff to handle core tasks, which is where we were stretched thin and hope to improve next year."
The Meet-and-Greet System
We heard concerns from some guests on how the meet-and-greet system worked, we'd like to ask you if this was communicated to all guests properly, and what are the next steps moving forward.
"The cost, time, and amount of tickets for every single meet and greet during the weekend were discussed with and chosen by talents themselves or their agencies [emphasis is Mari's], and documented via signed contracts. OffKai does not profit off of these, we use our share of the revenue to recoup some of the price of the rooms, tech setup, signature cards and extra internet access which we booked for the meet and greets themselves.
"As for the raffle system, we may have overestimated how well known the concept is. A lot of our staff are fans of Japanese Idol culture and are very familiar with the concept of a "Chuusen," a raffle/lottery to determine who gets to purchase a ticket to an event. We understand that the word "raffle" implies a free prize, but it was explained quite clearly on our website and registration page that winning meant "winning the chance to buy" and that entering the raffle itself is completely free.
"We had many winners during this process who chose not to purchase their wins; no one was locked in to their purchase. We stand by this system because, once you understand it, it is much fairer than a first-come-first-served sale. We might adjust it to be longer, earlier and staggered to give people more chances to understand and participate, but we do want to stick with the system.
"Since our meet and greets were quite special, including (for most events) a card signed with the attendee's name, we did not allow ticket stacking and had to keep a close eye on the clock during each meet, to make sure that each participant had a memorable experience but also giving as many people the chance as the space and schedule allowed."
OffKai Live Concert
Compared to last year's convention, what's the proudest moment you've done this year?
"For me, and I believe a lot of staff, that was OffKai Live, our big concert on Saturday evening. While that too suffered from delays, it went amazingly once it was rolling and I believe the attendees and performers alike had a wonderful time.
"We had initially planned to hold this as a standalone event in the off-season (Winter 22/23), but scrapped the idea because we didn't feel confident in pulling it off in a satisfactory way. I'm very glad we managed to make it happen during OKE.
"Seeing the huge room filled with pen lights in the talents' colors was very moving, and every performer did an amazing job. I hope this can become a tradition and a way to showcase singers both big and small to the community."
The Next Steps
What do you look forward to doing next year?
"Honestly, next year we want to focus on continuing what worked this year, and improving what didn't. Expansion and innovation isn't always the answer, especially since we grew so much between our Debut and Gen2.
"People really loved the ribbons, the guest cards, the arcade, the maid cafe... all of those will hopefully make a comeback. But we want to relax the schedule a bit, and make sure our guests and panelists won't suffer as much tech scuff.
"We also want to refine some other aspects, based on the feedback we have received after the event. So in that sense, I look forward to 'doing it right'."
With reports and photos from Monty Seelana