PAX South 2019: Covering the Launch Weekend of Ace Combat 7
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
The third weekend of January 2019 was undoubtedly an important weekend for the Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown but also featured a landmark event for the Ace Combat series as a whole. This summary of event coverage is the first of a set of articles about PAX South 2019 as covered by Project Lighthouse (this is the name of the organization that preceded Skyward Flight Media).
The initial plan was to send a single representative to observe, record and later write an article about PAX South 2019 from January 18th to January 20th, 2019. Our focus would be on everything related to Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. A few days before the event, others from the Ace Combat online community were confirmed to also be attending. The result of this was Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza joining up with Ace Combat Fan (Ace Combat-focused YouTuber), F22Coleman (USAF Aircraft Maintenance Officer, Long-time Ace Combat fan) and Zetec (the head of r/AceCombat) to collaborate on event coverage and meet with new and returning fans of the series.
Attendance of Kazutoki Kono
It goes without saying that any event attended by the Brand Director of the Ace Combat series is important. Having Kazutoki Kono attend PAX South on the weekend of Ace Combat 7's launch was huge. In comparison to other PAX conventions in the United States of America, PAX South is still relatively new. For this reason, along with the small window of travel before the event for Kono-san, no one was expecting him to attend before the announcement was made days before the convention doors opened. Especially not on the launch weekend of the latest main series release of the series.
While at PAX South, Kono-san had casual interactions with the attendees, performed an interview with Ace Combat Fan and had an on-stage presentation before watching AC7 played live in an eSports style event. His two autograph sessions on Friday and Saturday were entertaining. As he signed merchandise presented to him by fans, he used his own personal cellphone to snap photos, autographed everything from postcards to video game consoles and saluted in photos with fans. He was very engaged with the event from start to finish. Fans expressed their own gratitude by presenting him with gifts. He also took the time to try a staple Texan fast food chain.
The AC7 Booth
In the landscape of PAX South 2019, the Ace Combat 7 booth was eye-catching in the mass of booths on the PAX floor. With a wall-sized banner as its background, the blue and white booth presented three clusters of PlayStation 4 game consoles. Eight player battle royale and virtual reality experiences we offered. Bandai Namco Entertainment USA staff and other attendants wearing flight suits consistently interacted with attendees as they came to the booth. It didn't matter if they were waiting for a chance to play or looked on from outside with curiosity, the staff there was courteous and always on standby to answer questions.
The booth was also a meeting spot for new, returning and veteran Ace Combat fans. While there they discussed the current game and all facets of Ace Combat as a whole while networking with one another. Of note were long-time fans taking the time to teach new players quick tips to make their first flights with the Ace Combat series more enjoyable. Throughout the weekend three grand prizes for the individual that put up the highest score on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were available. These top scorers would win a PlayStation VR bundle that included two games, the PS VR headset, and a PlayStation camera. Winners would have their achievement commemorated with a photo of themselves with the grand prize and staff at the booth. Competition for this grand prize was quietly fierce with a handful of particularly skilled players regularly walking by to see if their score was outdone.
On Friday, January 18th, 2019, PAX attendees who won their battle royale matches at the Ace Combat 7 booth were registered to compete in the Air Force Ace Combat 7 Open Competition on the PAX Arena stage. A select few of them would later participate in an event on the same stage that was a landmark event for the public outlook of Ace Combat as a whole.
Once in a Lifetime
Chris Aguilar had one of the most interesting experiences any convention attendee could possibly have. During the weekend of his first convention visit ever, he won a PlayStation Virtual Reality headset for having the highest battle royale score in a day and competed in the first PAX Arena Ace Combat 7 competition.