The second Pokémon GO Fest hitting Chicago this July has to make up for last year’s fail.
I just gotta catch ’em all.
When Pokémon Go first rolled out in July 2016, a record-breaking 130 million people downloaded the free gaming app, and became obsessed with collecting the adorable cartoon pocket monsters that augmented reality (AR) technology projected into the real world. Game developer Niantic earned $206.5 million through in-app purchases that first month alone. And I was among the packs of 45 million daily players (aka “trainers”) glued to our smartphones as we chased after the adorable characters from the ’90s cartoon, like the iconic Pikachu (my personal favorite) in parks, streets and sidewalks.
The fervor has definitely died down, and player rates have plummeted — but the game still counts around 5 million daily users and 65 million monthly users. It’s spawned copycats such as Jurassic World Live, which is essentially the same game, but with dinosaurs, and Niantic is poised to release a Harry Potter version of the game this summer.
The video game is surprisingly effective at keeping players active, two years in. It encourages you to walk and explore your neighborhood and local parks. I’ve hoofed it 1,623 kilometers — or 1,008 miles — while trying to hatch digital Pokémon eggs and flick balls at imaginary monsters. And it’s kept dogged trainers like myself invested by rolling out new features such as solo quests, as well as encouraging players to make friends at community events each month.
But the monster of all community events has to be Pokémon Go Fest coming up in July, which has a lot to live up to since last year’s inaugural event was perhaps the second-biggest festival fail after the Fyre Festival.
It was billed as a day for attendees to catch rare Pokémon that don’t usually spawn in the game while enjoying photo ops and shots at catching elite “Legendary” Pokémon. Those like myself who couldn’t get tix to the fest (which sold out in 30 minutes) could watch the livestream and participate in global challenges from home. But the poorly planned fest was overwhelmed with too many people — estimates put the number at 20,000 — packed into too small a space. Not only were lines of people unable to get into the park for hours, but the sheer number of players overloaded the servers on-site so that no one there could even play the game. When the CEO came on stage to address the crowd, he was greeted with boos and chants of “We can’t play!”
lol, people booing at Niantic CEO John Hanke on stage at Pokemon Go Fest because the game is unplayable for many attendees pic.twitter.com/QFZQTiMRxr
— Wario64 (@Wario64) July 22, 2017
Niantic had to refund everyone their $20 admission tickets (which would be $400,000 for 20,000 people) as well as settle an almost $1.6 million class action lawsuit to compensate the flights and accommodations of disappointed attendees from around the world.
While Niantic did not respond to Moneyish requests for comment, a spokesman told the Chicago Tribune: “Since last summer, we’ve been hard at work developing and hosting Pokémon Go events around the globe. Our team has learned a tremendous amount about hosting real-world events for attendees ranging from tens of thousands to millions.”
And the company is giving the festival another go with Pokémon Go Fest: A Walk in the Park in Chicago this July. This time, the event is spread across two days (July 14 and 15) and expanded from Grant Park into an almost two-mile walking course in Lincoln Park, so that festival-goers can spread out while catching Pikachu and friends — putting less strain on the servers than tens of thousands trying to play in one spot. And major cellular carriers are deploying mobile network hotspots on wheels throughout the park to help boost service.
Dude! There is some serious traffic to purchase Pokemon Go Fest tickets. I didnt think it would be as crazy as Tool tickets lol. It's awesome how many people want to attend! But, I hope I can purchase a ticket before they run out. #PokemonGOFest2018
— Joshua (@Techdek00) May 11, 2018
We’re buying it. Players were so psyched about this second fest that the $20 tickets sold out within half an hour on Friday. Some tix are already being resold on eBay for $369.
I didn’t score tickets, but I’ll be playing from home that weekend, as there will be in-game challenges to get us all tapped in together. I’m still missing a few key critters in my Pokédex — after all, as far as I’m concerned, the game is still on.
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