After A Disastrous Debut, Pokémon Go Fest Is Returning

Pokemon Go’s Safari Zone in Tottori
Pokemon Go’s Safari Zone in Tottori
Photo: Niantic

A year after Pokémon Go Fest’s calamitous Chicago debut, the event is coming back. Anyone who heard about the misery its 30,000 attendees stood through might be a little surprised, but today, developer Niantic announced 2018's Pokémon Go Tour across Japan, Germany and the U.S. between June 30 and July 1.


Mobile signal was a big issue at last year’s fest.“We can’t play!” chanted players at last year’s event. In an interview with IGN published this morning, Niantic CEO John Hanke, who was booed on stage last year, said that since then, he’s made a concerted effort to explain to cellular providers exactly what kind of strain tens of thousands of people playing Pokémon Go can place on cellular networks. So hopefully, this year, the event’s technical requirements will be less of an obstacle.

Niantic really does not want to screw up again in Chicago, it turns out. And it looks like 2018's Pokémon Go fest will be a lot different. First, players will be encouraged to walk along a nearly 2-mile-long course through Lincoln Park instead of standing still in Chicago’s .5-square mile Grant Park. That way, players can experience a variety of gyms and PokeStops in a more organized way. If gameplay begins to feel clogged, Hanke said, Niantic will “closely monitor what’s happening in Lincoln Park itself and then to dial up the attractiveness of other areas if for some reason there’s a problem there.”

Since players will be walking around, that might put less strain on cellular networks, too. Henke explained to IGN:

“There wasn’t really a model for how do you do a mobile gaming event for 30,000 people. The company we worked with had put on lots of big music shows, and I think their thinking was more like, ‘Hey, how does Lollapalooza work?’ There was a stage, there was a fence, there were concessions and things like that, but it was kind of drawing its inspiration from a music festival, and I think that’s not really quite the right model.”

In Chicago July 14-15, attendees this year will face Pokémon Go challenges alongside fans from around the world—if it all works.

Senior reporter at Kotaku.


Honestly, all they really needed to do before was rent out some extra cell towers to deal with the extra coverage. And in all fairness, it was a completely predictable concern- anyone who has been to a large event knows that cell reception can be spotty when you have significantly more people than expected all in the same area, and when your event is dependent on people being able to use a GPS-dependent smartphone app that should be the very first thing that you consider. Hopefully they’ve learned from their mistake, because in theory this was a pretty cool idea.