Okay, folks, here we go. As someone who attended last year’s event, I was really amazed at AcadArena and CONQuest’s vision. Many fun memories were made at CONQuest 2022 and it even changed a lot in the convention and gaming scene. I still genuinely believe that the organizers had all the right intentions in making 2023 one of the best conventions in the country. However, it’s become a bit difficult now to appreciate the convention’s so-called international and premium features, especially after CONQuest 2023 received a lot of negative feedback.
CONQuest 2023 Mishaps and Grievances
To name a few examples from the con-goers, there was the overcrowding outside the SMX (including the halls and the second floor), the unsatisfying assistance from staff/volunteers/security, the unfair mechanics of the MeetZones and Panels, and lastly, the complicated and confusing instructions of the activities. Some may even say that CONQuest’s ambitions may have all been too much, too fast. Yes, it succeeded in bringing in many popular names but it certainly still has a lot to learn from this year’s mishaps.
One of the come-ons of CONQuest Festival 2023 is having the chance to meet everyone’s favorite creators in person, but a major grievance that con-goers and special guests alike share is the negative experience around this. The MeetZones were picked randomly and on a first-come-first-served basis, and apparently, those who went to these events only experienced a short interaction. In Sykkuno’s YouTube stream, he said that “The Meet and Greet was cool, but it was kinda weird like I feel like they rushed people too fast. I kinda get it since there was a limited time…but the problem was that the official M&G was literally worse than if you ran into me somewhere… It was rushed and we couldn’t sign anything. Anytime anyone asked me, I would just do it anyway… It was strange because I felt like winning a ticket should have been a special thing as opposed to the other way around… Other than that, the M&G was great… everyone was super nice.”
Meanwhile, a lot of fans were apparently misinformed and discouraged by the staff that unless they purchased any merchandise, they could not meet the Special Guests at the Quest Market. Laura Stahl expressed her sadness at this. “I am so so sorry. This is unacceptable and my heart is in pieces. I wish we could have said hello… I am completely distraught over finding out fans were turned away, told to leave, and told I would be unavailable entirely or only for a fee. So many of you worked so hard to come out to see us just to be denied even a simple interaction…I simply believed I just wasn’t as in demand as the other VAs which would be completely fine, SEA pride was shining in a beautiful way. but to hear fans say they felt deterred by “guards” or they felt they could only afford to see me from other guests’ lines— I’m in tears.” More voice actors have also responded to this.
Lines and crowds are always expected at large events like this, but CONQuest 2023 struggled to manage “the overwhelming response.” The entrance to the SMX on Saturday and Sunday formed an insanely long line that turned around the building. The convention hours were officially extended to 9:00 PM and while it was good for some people, some others were already too tired to stay or were late for their own Meets. The rainy and sunny weather also played a big part in the discomfort of the convention experience. At this point, it wasn’t just the con-goers who were struggling too. The merchants and exhibitors inside were also subject to overcrowding. Staff and volunteers were extremely tense in doing their work, asking people to move or that lines were capped. (I wish they did it like last year when they listed our names at the booths if the guest left.) Even we, as media, had our fair share of troubles regarding last-minute changes to our privileges.
On the brighter side, there were a lot of comforting things that happened. Jollibee (sponsored by Pokimane), Fuwa Fuwa, and Del Monte gave away free food to plenty of con-goers inside and outside the building. This is without a doubt, one of my favorite parts about the convention. It’s also worth mentioning an appreciation for busker Dione, together with Heinrich Bernabe, Aned Samson, and Presh, who provided musical entertainment at the food stalls at Seashell Lane.
CONQuest’s Response and Refunds
CONQuest has released an official statement addressing several issues. “Questers, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and discomfort that many of you experienced during CONQuest due to the long lines outside the convention. One of our critical oversights was the overwhelming response to the event despite the tireless efforts made by the City of Pasay and our venue partners...
We acknowledge that there are several issues that need to be addressed besides this, and we are dedicated to resolving them one by one in the following days. Our objective is to do right by our community and enact sweeping changes and remedies to deliver the convention experience you deserve.”
Additionally, CONQuest co-founder Justin Banusing also took to Twitter to express his apology. He said, “When I started CQ, I dreamed of creating a space where people could explore their passions without judgment and bridge the online and offline worlds. Instead, I failed you all. Overpromised, undelivered I know you’ve been looking forward to this event all-year and it sucked that not everyone who wanted to experience CQ was able to do so. Worse is that I hyped it up a LOT – and hype means nothing when not all attendees can enjoy it...
I entered this year with an inflated ego coming off the high of last year. I thought I could solve the problems I experienced as a con-goer growing up and that my event was better than others. That I was better than other organizers. And I clearly wasn’t. Jokes on me, linecon became my con. I was in over my head to think I could deliver an experience at this magnitude in the second year that CONQuest is in Manila. There is no excuse and I took all your good faith in me and wasted it…
Moving Forward, I need to make sure I help the team deliver on the day. This starts with making sure as many of you can get into the event and experience what you came for. We’ve extended show hours, and we’re actively re-evaluating queueing as we go. This is all I can promise. With this said, I know everyone cannot experience CQ the way they hoped for. I cannot refund the time and effort that you guys committed for this event, but ticket REFUNDS will happen. This is the very least I can do to start earning back whatever trust you have in me.“
CONQuest will be refunding all Questers that were not able to enter the venue on Day 2 and Day 3. The application form is now on the website and will be open until June 16, 2023 at 11:59 PM. Refunds will be processed within one month. Eligibility to apply includes:
- Day 2 & Day 3 Pass Holders where the Attendee was not able to enter the venue and received a refund code
- Day 2 & Day 3 Pass Holders where Attendee has not claimed a wristband using their QR code
- Day 2 & Day 3 Pass Holders where the Attendee was not able to enter the venue but did not receive a refund code OR do not fall into any of the cases above
- Premium Pass Holders where the Attendee was not able to enter the venue but did not receive a refund code
All in all, I still can say that I had a good time inside CONQuest 2023 despite many of its unfortunate mishaps. The passion, dream, and effort were still felt anyway through many people and friends. I was lucky enough to be at the right time and place to meet them. It’s always great to support them, and as you have read in my article, they are the ones that made my convention a fun and happy experience.
So as much as we feel betrayed, hurt, or whatever spicy memories we had over this chaotic weekend, I hope that it has at least ignited some memories with your friends, family, favorite creators, games, anime, art, music, or anything at all. I sincerely wish that it keeps you happy and inspired in life. See you around!
Thank you to AcadArena and CONQuest for having us at CONQuest Festival 2023. Special thanks as well to the media team members on site — Ken, JM, Jerome, and my brother Ian — for their contributions to the coverage. Another special thanks to our managing editor Tamara and to Editor-in-Chief Marko for their assistance. Lastly, I give my heartfelt thanks to you, the reader, for supporting ACN and my event coverages. I am able to do what I do and write because of all of you.
Anime Corner was an official media partner for CONQuest Festival 2023.