Pokémon GO Fest did not go as well as Niantic would have liked.
Hundreds of thousands of Pokémon trainers from all over the world gathered in Grant Park, Chicago last weekend to attend the festival, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
Firstly, the many thousands of players—and more importantly cell phones—all in one specific location overloaded the cellular towers that served them, meaning that most players couldn’t get any bars. No cellular network meant that players couldn’t even send a text message, let alone play an online augmented reality game like Pokémon.
Secondly, even if you did manage to get a cellular connection, the Niantic servers were so overloaded with trainers logging on at once that it was like the summer of 2016 all over again. Trainers that have traveled from as far away as Japan were crammed into a park in the sweltering heat only to be greeted with the sad message of “failed to login”.
The result of this technical double-whammy was the CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, being booed once he took the stage.
Players could be heard chanting “fix the game” and “fix the servers” during the presentation and for some time afterward.
Everyone’s disappointment is understandable. The main draw for Pokémon GO Fest wasn’t just to rub elbows with fellow trainers but to get their hands on some rare Pokémon. Every type of Pokémon, including those never before seen in Chicago, was said to pop-up all over Pokémon GO Fest. Not only that, but all the Pokéstops that littered the park were dropping rare eggs that had a 2km walk time (that’s extremely short in game terms).
There was even a challenge for catching Pokémon, with those catching an unknown threshold being able to take part in the first Legendary Raid Boss battle the game had ever seen. This was unknown to many since so few people were able to get connected to the game.
Niantic didn’t play dumb the whole festival though and listened to players complaints. They were able to resolve most of the technical issues as the evening progressed, but for many players, it was already too late to satisfy the challenge. The apologies came fast and furious.
“I’m super sorry guys — I’m really sorry especially for everyone who traveled international, East Coast, from all over,” said a spokesman at the event. “So this clearly was not what we were hoping for today. Thanks for your patience.”
Niantic would later issue an official apology on the Pokémon GO website. They also offered full refunds for attendees, $100 worth of in-game currency, a free Lugia legendary Pokémon, and kept the special Pokéstops operational until Monday so that people could get some eggs before they went home.
That’s a lot of swag, but was it worth the disappointment? If you went to Pokémon GO Fest, let us know what you thought in the comments!