Pokemon Go players who began playing at launch will remember the severe problems with server availability, not to mention the glitches and other issues that arise from too many people trying to play at once. Pokemon Go may have waned somewhat in popularity since then, but it still an incredibly popular title as demonstrated by the large crowds at Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago. However, it seems that the event did not go as well as the organisers would have hoped.
Since the event started at Grant Park in Chicago, there were reports of very long lines of people waiting to get in. Thousands had flocked to Chicago in order to get a chance to catch some of the first Legendary Pokemon to be introduced to the title, but it seems the organisers were not quite prepared for the sheer volume of people.
Connectivity issues were quickly reported, with many people unable to access 3G services due to network saturation. Since Pokemon Go needs a network connection to be able to play, this led to frustration for many attendees. Reports from Kotaku indicated that customers with AT&T were experiencing the worst connection problems, while Sprint customers were able to get on sometimes.
Things came to a head when John Hanke, CEO of developer Niantic Labs came on stage at the festival to be greeting with boos and chants of ‘We Can’t Play’ from the assembled crowd. Hanke did his best to calm attendees: “I know that some of you guys have had trouble getting logged on this morning, and I wanted to let you know that we’re working with the cell companies—AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, trying to get that worked out,” Hanke said, “And we’re working on the game server to get that worked out. So, I want to ask you guys, please know, we’ve got the whole Niantic team working against this, so please be patient with us.”
Despite Niantic’s efforts to ease the network pressure by extending the event radius, many players left the event frustrated and disappointed, many taking to Twitter to express their anger at Niantic Labs. Niantic have now responded saying that attendees will all be getting a refund, along with $100 (USD) worth of PokeCoins and Legendary Pokemon Lugia added to their account.
It remains to be seen how this experience will affect other planned Pokemon Go events happening later this year. VRFocus will be sure to report on whatever happens.