When Pokémon GO first launched in July 2016, it instantly became a cultural phenomenon. Its unprecedented mainstream popularity lead to widespread network issues that lasted for weeks.
Unfortunately all reports from last Saturday’s Pokémon GO Fest on July 22 tell a similar story. While it was meant to be a fun one-year celebration gathering, it instead brought back the same network issues that plagued the game at launch.
Connection issues hampered excited players throughout the day, with most event-goers unable to do the one thing they bought a ticket for. Amenities and organization were also subpar, with few charging stations and very long lines to get in (and out of) Grant Park.
Pokémon GO Fest ended up being such a disaster that Niantic announced mass refunds for everyone who attended ($20 ticket price). They’re also offering $100 worth of PokeCoins. Of course many people paid much more than that with airfare, hotel stay, and the typical overpriced event food.
There’s a video now circulating on YouTube from the event that features very disgruntled event-goers, and Niantic CEO John Hanke being booed on stage.
Niantic released an official statement:
Today at Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago, technical issues created problems for a large number of players attending the event. From everyone at Niantic, we apologize to all of the Trainers who came out to Pokémon GO Fest today. Although we were able to solve many of the technical issues, we were not able to offer every attendee a great experience. We appreciate the patience of all the Trainers who joined us in Chicago this weekend. We will strive to make sure our experiences are of the highest quality going forward.
In addition to the refund and PokeCoins, all attendees will have the Legendary Pokémon Lugia added to their account. Lugia was meant to be the big reward for completing the challenges, but connectivity problems lead to Niantic simply releasing it. Apparently Team Mystic came out ahead on the few Pokémon captures that could be earned, unlocking Articuno as the other Legendary Pokémon.
Given how well Niantic has supported Pokémon GO and stabilized the servers following its rough launch, it’s exceedingly disappointing to see a large-scale event like this crash and burn. Niantic has had a year to iron out the kinks. You would think they’d be able to better prepare for an actual scheduled, ticketed event.