Pokémon GO Fest was supposed to be a celebration. After Pokémon GO became a social phenomenon right out of the gate, Niantic’s headline event was to lead the festivities surrounding the location-based game’s first anniversary.
With an expected 20,000 Trainers descending on Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, it wasn’t long before problems started to hamper the experience.
Aside from the long queues – in which many are still waiting to actually enter the event hours after it started – attendees soon discovered that they were either unable to connect to the Pokémon GO servers or saw the app unexpectedly crash.
Increasingly frustrated at the situation, that soon saw Niantic CEO John Hanke met with widespread booing as he took to the stage to welcome everyone to the event. That later went on to result in the crowd chanting “Fix the game!” and “We can’t play!“, which the regular hosts struggled to shrug off.
That sentiment hasn’t changed for the past few hours, and, in looking to keep everyone in the loop with what was happening, it wasn’t long before CMO Mike Quigley addressed the crowds.
“There are three issues that we are tackling right now,” Quigley explained earlier in the day. “One of the network providers is trying to pump in some more bandwidth, so that is something that we’re working with them closely on.
“The other two issues are on the Niantic side. There is a crash bug issue, that we have identified, I know that some of you have had that issue. As well as an authentication issue. We’ve got it completely pinpointed to those three things, we’re working on it [and] we’ll give you an update as we get closer to getting that fixed.”
As work continues to resolve the issues, Quigley returned to the stage to announce that they would extend the rare Pokémon encounters that are appearing at the event – such as Heracross and Unown – to a two-mile radius, allowing attendees to leave Grant Park if they wish and explore the city.
What’s more, all attendees will receive a refund for their tickets, as well as $100 PokéCoins for use in-game.
As it stands, the event was scheduled to run for another four hours and was set to close with the first Legendary Pokémon encounter. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
The wider question is why Niantic was underprepared for the issues, having held similar events in the past for their other location-based, augmented-reality game, Ingress.