Update: All attendees are getting refunds and $100 in Pokecoins as recompense for the connectivity issues. Additionally, everyone with passes will be getting a free Legendary, Lugia. The global unlock for Legendaries will still begin over the next 24 hours.
It seemed unlikely that Niantic’s first major Pokémon GO event would go off without a hitch, and so far, it appears to be drowning in them.
Seemingly endless lines and connectivity issues are currently plaguing the event and the game. Called away by an unavoidable family vacation, I’m not actually at GO Fest which is taking place in my home city, but I bequeathed my hastily-purchased pass to my friend, Bret Fortuna, who is providing me with live updates from the ground. Our own Dave Thier is also there, and will be reporting in with his own account shortly.
The friend I’ve sent to attend was using a regular pass I purchased, not a press pass, and as such he had to wait over three hours in line just to get into Grant Park, and just got in at 1 PM local time, well past the point when the event was supposed to have started inside. Organization for getting people with scannable wristbands inside does not seem to be remotely efficient, despite the fact that there are concerts all over this area normally without similar issues.
But it’s not just the waiting, the game itself is under siege by so many players trying to play at once. All day so far, the game has been plagued with connectivity issues, which reminds me of exactly a year ago when an unofficial Pokémon GO event in Chicago’s Millennium Park I was at was shut down for server issues and the technical problems forced everyone to head home.
Niantic warned players not to livestream their time at GO Fest in order to avoid these kinds of issues, but apparently that wasn’t enough, and the game is overloading the local Verzion/Sprint/AT&T networks.
These issues are starting to turn the event ugly. This happened before my friend was inside, but John Hanke took to the stage to address connectivity issues was reportedly loudly booed with players shouting “We can’t play!” on repeat. And there are plenty of folks to taking to social media to express their displeasure that they still are waiting outside and not even able to get into the malfunctioning event.
There are supposed to be timed catching events to unlock bonuses throughout the day like extra XP and candy for all players globally, but many players are unable to participate either left outside or with the game not working at all. Pokémon GO Fest is supposed to culminate with a grand fight against Legendary Pokémon to unlock them globally later tonight, but it’s hard to know if things are on pace to even get that far. As I write this, my friend just told me that everyone just tried to band together for a Snorlax raid that no one could connect to at all. We are reportedly just a few hours away from Legendary spawns.
This is an event that many players flew in for and have reserved hotels, meaning the cost is far beyond the $20 wristbands in terms of both dollars and time. If these issues persist, Niantic may have to end up issuing refunds or some other form of recompense.
Right now we’re only halfway through the event, and there’s still time to turn things around before the Legendary battle this evening, but not much. If there’s one tiny glimmer of hope, my friend just texted to tell me he caught a Heracross.
Stay tuned to see how this all plays out.
Update: Bret tells me that Niantic is issuing refunds and giving out $100 in Pokecoins to attendees. A nice gesture but again, many people probably paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend this event if traveling from out of the state or country.
Update 2: Bret: “There is a 20 minute line to leave.” I’m sorry but I’m almost crying laughing at that one. Condolences to attendees, truly. This is turning into the Fyre Festival of the gaming world.
Update 3: Hearing rumblings that Niantic may be extending Grant Park-specific stuff out into the city itself, given that it could help with network congestion. Given that the event has been refunded, that could work, but anyone who paid big bucks for aftermarket tickets will be out of luck if aspects of the event open up to non-attendees.