For many Pokemon GO players, summer was going to be legendary. Developer Niantic even promised as much, hinting that fans still hooked on the monster-hunting mobile game would soon be able to snatch up Legendary Pokemon for themselves.
The warmest months of the year were heating up even more, and it seemed a great deal of players were most looking forward to attending Pokemon GO Fest in Chicago. But when the event was hit with severe service problems and major technical issues, it was deemed a failure. Niantic CEO John Hanke has finally stepped forward to discuss the circumstances surrounding Pokemon GO Fest.
Hanke took to the Niantic website to issue a statement regarding the festival’s failure. He opened by acknowledging the “software and network problems that prevented many people from being able to connect to the game,” and mentioned that he and the Pokemon GO team heard boos from the disappointed attendees. But why were so many people upset? What exactly happened at Pokemon GO Fest?
According to Hanke, technical issues with Pokemon GO software “caused client crashes” and interfered with some users’ gameplay. The latter issue was a relatively easy fix, a server configuration change; the former was “addressed for many but not all users,” said Hanke. In addition to technical issues within the game, Hanke stated that certain network providers are to blame.
“A more protracted problem was caused by oversaturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers. This caused many attendees to be unable to access Pokemon GO or other Internet services. Network congestion also led to a login issue which affected some users able to access the Internet. This latency-related login issue was addressed with a second Niantic configuration change.
Hanke continued, explaining that Niantic provided estimates on attendance and projected required data throughput per user to its partner for the event. Reportedly, the partner collaborated with major carriers to allow them to prepare for adequate coverage, with some even deploying “Cellular on Wheels (COWs) to extend their capacity.”
Unfortunately, not every carrier provided a solution. Some deemed additional coverage unnecessary; another switched on WiFi for players, a fix that only worked for some; and official event partner Sprint sent out a COW, but coverage didn’t hold up well at all.
Hanke stated that the game’s technical team worked tirelessly with the event vendor and with telephone companies to try to resolve the issues, but their efforts were ultimately fruitless. Additionally, he mentioned that he understands many fans spent time, effort, and money in order to attend the festival, and is truly sorry that it didn’t turn out well. “It was obviously an incredibly stressful and disappointing day for all of us. Both I personally and all of Niantic apologize for the inconvenience and frustration,” wrote Hanke. Niantic swiftly issued refunds and offered $100 in PokeCoins as compensation.
Hanke’s explanation comes a few days after the Pokemon GO YouTube page Trainer Tips spoke out about why the event’s attendees had so many problems. The channel’s owner, a man named Nick, was candid about the issues he encountered – which included technical errors, in-game bugs, and slow load times – but stated that cell phone providers, not Niantic’s servers, are to blame.
In Nick’s words, “Niantic contacted all of the cellular network providers in Chicago ahead of time and told them, ‘This is the traffic we’re expecting, this is what we need you to be prepared for.’ And all of the cell phone networks said, ‘We can handle that.'” Based on Nick’s earlier remarks and Hanke’s in-depth address, it appears that the failure of the Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago was due in large part (if not entirely) to cell phone services failing to provide adequate coverage.
It’s disheartening to hear that an event intended to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Pokemon GO, which launched last July, didn’t go smoothly. It’s even more disappointing to know that it could have been avoided, and to know that a large number of fans were looking forward to attending.
Sadly, this is just another example of a Pokemon gathering going awry, following in the footsteps of other festivals – like the Sun and Moon event, in which players completely failed the mission. The discernible difference here is that Niantic has tackled the Pokemon GO Fest issue head-on, and it appears that the company is striving to win back player satisfaction. If Niantic continues on an upward spiral, and learns from the mistakes made with this festival, perhaps the Pokemon GO events scheduled for Europe this fall will be smooth sailing.
Pokemon Go is available now on iOS and Android.