— Christopher Green (@KarstCSG) July 22, 2017
Despite heavy storms which blasted the Chicagoland area the night before the first ever Pokemon Go Fest, thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic trainers showed up to Grant Park to catch ’em all. Unfortunately for them, the soggy ground beneath them was the least of their worries. Long lines delayed entry for hours, and then, once a good amount of trainers were finally inside and booting up the app, the servers weren’t working.
So thousands of grumpy trainers who just wanted to acquire promised rare Pokemon, nab some loot and in general, have a good time were dealing with major frustrations beyond their control. The non-augmented reality was that thousands of people were put shoulder to shoulder in a small space and no one could get anything to work. It was the worst possible outcome for the event.
Some people traveled thousands of miles to Chicago just to take part, while others spent hundreds of dollars over the asking price of tickets to get in the door. This led to a refund of the $20 tickets, and Niantic, the developers of the game, gave out $100 in game credit to everyone in attendance.
Despite the well-meaning handouts, the crowd turned on the various presenters who were just trying to roll with the punches and put on a great time in lieu of the technical difficulties. It wasn’t a good look.
Here are some pictures of the massive lines (that looped around Buckingham fountain “seven times”). What was expected to be a big chunk of Grant Park turned out to be a relatively small area for all the trainers to fit in.
Here’s the live stream of the event, which has gone down throughout the day:
I’m not sure if anyone expected for this event to go off without a hitch, but for it to go this poorly absolutely was a shock. The problems were somewhat fixed a few hours in, and even long lines, server issues wouldn’t stop the normally pleasant Pokemon community from having a good time. The Chicago Tribune spoke to Rubait Sarker from Vancouver, British Columbia, who was absolutely delighted to be at the event:
“I drove two-and-a-half hours to Seattle and then took a flight straight from there to the airport in Chicago. This has already been the single greatest gaming experience of my life. There’s like 15,000 people in this park … I’ve never seen this many people playing Pokemon Go in one place before, even at the start of the game.”
In the end, this will lead to a better event next time. It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t go as well as it could’ve for the thousands of passionate fans in attendance. Let’s chalk it up to a learning experience for Niantic, which still has a massive hit on its hands, even with this poor showing.