A disaster. A calamity. A catastrophe. A nightmare. All of these would be appropriate descriptions of Pokemon GO Fest which took place at Chicago’s Grant Park yesterday. The event was meant to be an anniversary celebration for the game, while Niantic was set to reveal the first legendary Pokemon, but unfortunately, the event was as far from the realm of success.

The reason for the event’s failure is fairly simple. The mobile data providers could not keep up with such high demand, all concentrated in one relatively small area. With so many people all trying to use up their monthly data allowances playing the game, Pokemon GO players found that they were unable to log-in to the game for hours. Then, when they were able to log-in, many were unable to use PokeStops or even catch Pokemon.

Niantic did try to make it up to players by offering compensation. Over the next few days, those who purchased a ticket for Pokemon GO Fest will receive information about requesting a refund, $100 in PokeCoins will also be credited to their accounts and attendees are also getting legendary Pokemon Lugia. Access to special Fest content, including eggs, Pokemon and PokeStops is also being extended.

But for many fans, this just isn’t enough, and it’s not even close. While many of those in attendance were Chicago locals and therefore meant attending may have required driving a few hours in the car, a great deal of players came from across the United States to be there. Hotels were booked and entire families shuffled onto planes to be there to celebrate the mobile game that they love and wanted to enthuse about with other players and the developers themselves. Niantic won’t be refunding hotels and travel, at least not according to the press release detailing compensation, and so disappointed attendees will never get that money back. All they will be left with is a devastating experience and resentment towards Niantic for ruining their day.


As anyone who has tried to send a “Happy New Year!” text from an NYE party can attest, it doesn’t take much to slow down a mobile network when lots of people in one place are trying to use that network at once. The event’s failure could have been foreseen and Niantic could have and should have prepared for this type of thing. Although dwelling on what Niantic could have done isn’t helpful, the fact that it was so predictable only makes the entire situation so much worse.

At this point, the lasting effects of the Pokemon GO Fest debacle are unclear. Although many are still out and about playing Pokemon GO on the streets of Chicago and around the world, on social media there seems to an underlying feeling of “what a joke” and “this sums up the game entirely.”

After a difficult year of addressing fan complaints and trying to address their feedback, many felt that the Pokemon GO Gym update signaled a better future for the hit mobile game. However, the level of faith held by the community now seems to have been reset, and many no longer trust Niantic to do right by them.

For sure, Niantic has a lot of making up to do. Any additional bumps in the road, particularly with the Safari Zone events in Europe and the (rumored) shiny legendary Pokemon will not be accepted. The developer will have to work hard to get back into fans’ good graces, or the developer will be the only one celebrating its game by the time the second Pokemon GO anniversary rolls around.

Pokemon GO is available on iOS and Android.