Last week’s Pokemon Go Fest was more or less a disaster, with widespread connectivity issues causing many of the 20,000 expected fans who showed up to Chicago’s Grant Park to not be able to access the game they’d traveled to the sold out event to celebrate. In the wake of the issues, developer Niantic issued refunds, $100 in Pokecoins and worked the entire day to rectify the issues.
Niantic CEO and founder John Hanke, who faced his fair share of boo’s and criticisms when he took the stage at the event on July 22, recently issued a second statement about the event, both acknowledging the shortcomings of the event and praising some of the more level-headed attendees – who weren’t throwing bottles onstage.
Hanke cites technical issues with Pokemon Go’s software as causing the issues many players faced, likely from an influx of users in one spot trying to access the game. These issues were worsened, he said, by network congestion and “oversaturation” of some mobile networks. Over the course of the day, Niantic performed multiple server configuration changes which solved these issues for some attendees, but not all, he points out.
“On the pure network access issue, we provided detailed estimates on attendance and required data throughput per user to our event partner who worked with the major carriers to allow them to plan for adequate coverage,” Hanke wrote. “Some carriers deployed Cellular on Wheels (COWs) to extend their capacity. In other cases, the providers deemed them unnecessary based on other infrastructure already in place at the site. Users reported different levels of success with these providers. Wifi was enabled by one provider as a solution which helped some users but not all. Sprint was onsite as an official partner, deployed a COW, and their network was busy but held up well.”
While Hanke does acknowledge the many shortcomings of his company’s event, in his post he does make a point to mention some of the ways attendees made their own fun outside of the event.
As frustrated event-goers left Pokemon Go Fest, many took to the surrounding Chicago areas where there was less cellular congestion to play the game. According to Hanke, during the evening of the event and the following day downtown Chicago players participated in over 69,000 raid battles and captured more than 7.7 million Pokemon – 440,000 of which were rare, legendary Pokemon.
“It was inspiring to watch Trainers band together with their friends and to enjoy the beautiful evening together despite the struggles of the day,” Hanke said.
Hanke concludes his statement by adding Niantic is taking all of these issues into consideration, learning how to better plan events in the future. The company currently has Pokemon Go events planned across Europe and in Yokohama, Japan later is summer.
“Last Saturday was not a happy day for us but we are committed to listening to that feedback, however harsh, to improve what we do so that we can continue to build experiences that bring together people, technology, and the real world in innovative ways,” Hanke said.