Pokémon GO Fest was a failure from the start, but at least it didn’t end too badly

Bradley Wint
Jul 24, 2017 12:40am AST
Photo: Allegra Frank/Polygon

By now you may have heard about the failure of an event that the Pokémon GO Fest (Chicago) was.

If you’re still in the dark as to what happened, here’s a quick recap. Niantic, the developers of the popular Pokémon Go mobile app finally lived up to their promise and hosted their first major public event.

The Pokémon GO Fest Chicago even took place on July 22nd at Chicago’s Grant Park. From the very get go, problems started popping up. For instance, when players scanned their QR code badges to confirm they were at the event, there were many reported instances where they could not complete the process.

Once more people started arriving at the venue, both Niantic’s servers and the respective mobile networks started buckling under the pressure, preventing players from logging in to their profiles.

Attendees started shouting “Fix the game!” and “Fix the servers!” as they quickly realized that the event would turn out to be a massive flop from the very get go.

A great concept not possible with today’s infrastructure

Photo: Greg Kumparak/TechCrunch

Unfortunately for the folks at Niantic, this type of event simply is not possible given the poor design of our current communications infrastructure. Even if Niantic was able to ramp up enough bandwidth and processing power on their side of things, today’s mobile network design simply cannot deal with concentrated levels of traffic like what occurred at the Pokémon Go Fest.

It was estimated that more than 20,000 people would have been in attendance. With so many people in a confined area, the cell towers would have had a hard time dealing with the sudden influx of traffic as there is only so much bandwidth that each tower is capable of handling.

From my experience attending mega events like CES, there’s little point in trying to use your mobile phone to browse the web or upload media because of how the networks can come to a complete crawl for most of the day.

Some good news though

Unlike past epic failures like the Rainfurrest and Fyre Festival events, Niantic offered full refunds on tickets purchased and gave all attendees $100 in Pokécoin virtual currency. Everyone in attendance also got Lugia without having to be part of a raid. They also expanded the radius from the park itself to about 2 miles out in all directions, allowing players to participate in raids to catch other Legendary Pokémon only available at the event.

This was a smart ideas as it would help spread the load between more cell towers, allowing for better connectivity versus trying to handle all the traffic between a few towers around the park.

Niantic obviously could not do much to compensate attendees who traveled from out of state and country to take part in the event, but at least they came out early in the game, admitting the problems they had, and were quick to try to remedy the situation to some extent.

All in all, the event was a still a disaster, and could potentially spell death for other upcoming events unless they seriously rethink their strategy on how to host events like this.

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