IF YOU’RE WONDERING whether digital comic books are now just as essential to fanboys as bags and boards and long white storage boxes, look no further than the day that Marvel “broke” the Internet.
When Marvel announced Sunday at SXSW that more than 700 No.-1 issues of its comics would be free to download on comiXology or the comiXology-fueled Marvel app (including the recently released Marvel NOW titles) through Tuesday, well, they might as well have had a picture of Mary Jane saying, “Face it, Tiger — you just hit the jackpot.”
All of a sudden, if there was a Marvel title (especially one of the newer Marvel NOW titles) that you wanted to try out but didn’t because there are only so many four-dollar comics you can buy on a budget, it was there for the taking.
But when folks started downloading, soon nothing happened. Literally.
The response was so huge, and so many people started trying to download comics simultaneously, that few were able to download anything because the comiXology servers (which work fine about, oh, 99-percent of the time) weren’t prepared for the traffic.
Throughout Monday, @cmxsupport (comiXology Support) was tweeting away, trying to extinguish intense fanboy blowback worthy of the Red Lantern Corps.
“Still working on it” was one of their most frequently used tweets.
The comiXology Facebook page shortly before 7 this morning read:
“Y’all, we’re still working on getting everything to 100%, thanks for your patience. You can follow us on twitter for the latest updates.”
About an hour later, comiXology CEO David Steinberger tweeted:
“I really appreciate the loving support we’ve had from our users over the last 18 hours. We’ll be updating the world shortly.”
And this afternoon brought:
“Yeah, it’s pretty hairy in there right now. Stay tuned. We’re working on fixing things asap!”
Update: Late Monday afternoon, comiXology — unable to get things fully up and running — finally decided to shut down the promotion.
“We expected a high degree of excitement for the Marvel initiative – and had believed ourselves prepared — but unfortunately we became overwhelmed by the immense response,” comiXology co-founder David Steinberger wrote on the company’s blog. “We’re still struggling to keep our systems up.
“The result is that you aren’t getting your comics when and where you want.”
In order not to continue to let down would-be comics buyers, Steinberger wrote: “We’re pausing the Marvel Comics #1 promotion for the time being. For those of you that want to take advantage of the offer — you will get your comics! Until we are able to reinstate this program in our systems, please click here and fill out this simple form, so you can be informed as soon as there is an update.
“We’ll be communicating with you as often as we can and deeply appreciate the outpouring of support we’ve seen from our customers while we right the ship.”
[DIGITAL COMICS: David Steinberger on growing comiXology’s content library]
So a major announcement/sale sparked a huge response with massive Internet traffic. ComiXology knew that this sale (especially with the aforementioned Marvel NOW titles) would be huge. Adjustments for traffic were made — so this shows that the response was even bigger than anticipated.
(Also announced: a new iOS Marvel Unlimited app for a monthly fee.)
Thursdays and Sundays at midnight (Friday and Monday morning) drive traffic to comiXology for their very popular 99-cent sales. The sales are always themed and provide fans with a chance to stock up on some of their favorite titles (which range from $1.99 to more than $3.99) on the cheaper side. (These sales are great for building up your digital comics library.)
But when the price dropped to “free,” and when thousands upon thousands received a “download error” message, it was clear there was a disturbance in the force.
Is this a bad thing? Not being able to download comics is rarely good for business if you’re in the business of selling digital comics, but the fanboy community — which can sometimes be downright villainous on message boards and social media — can also be a forgiving bunch. Folks just want their comics.
The folks at ComiXology were giving them away — and they just weren’t ready for the onslaught.