Chicago's Grant Park hosted a massive Pokemon GO event this past Saturday (July 22, 2017) and fans from all over the country turned up! Those who could not make it to Chicago met locally with other trainers (Pokemon GO players) to place lures, catch Pokemon, and raid a gym or two, if they had enough pokecoins (or if you're like me and save your raid pass).
For those who do not know, Pokemon GO is a game similar to Ingress. Some call it Ingress 2.0. Others call Ingress the Pokemon GO Beta. OR, and bear with me here, it could just be Niantic's next step, monotizing an idea that has sparked our imaginations since Ash Ketchum first chose Pikachu to be his starting Pokemon.
The event started in Chicago, but fans were encouraged to have their local meetups coincide with the schedule on the East coast, where fans would go out for major raids. It was a sad day for those of us unable to attend, but we got to live vicariously through friends and family.
But, according to CNN, the event had a rough start "when attendees could't get Wi-Fi service on their mobile devices in sections of the park." Mobile data can only get you so far, but a strong Wi-Fi connection is crucial for heated and extended gameplay.
"Today at Pokemon GO Fest in Chicago, technical issues created problems for a large number of players attending the event," a Niantic spokesperson said in a statement. "From everyone at Niantic, we apologize to all of the Trainers who came out to Pokemon GO Fest today. Although we were able to solve many of the technical issues, we were not able to offer every attendee a great experience."
Chicago trainers were refunded by Niantic and even given $100 in pokecoins as well as new game features. According to the Chicago Tribune, the event expected around 20,000 people.
According to Brandon Omernik, trainers who did not have Sprint as a provider were "unable to log in to the game." Omernik said he had traveled all the way from Wisconson just to attend the festival and was "disappointed" in the "lack of content that people thought would be in the game."
Another trainer, Cat Harris, flew in from Arizona. She said she was "overall...disappointed" and that "the location was not appropriate and made it difficult to play."
Harris reportedly only caught 20 Pokemon, while at home she said she "would have caught over 200 plus."
"I did have a fun time with my team and friends. I know this was Niantic's first event and hopefully they will learn from mistakes and improve," Harris said, seeing a bright side to an otherwise subpar event.
Both Omernik and Harris agreed the weather was perfect for catching Pokemon, even if the service was choppy.
"I think there needs to be a lot of praise to Niantic for developing a game that made so many people in America get outside, be more active, and experience our parks," said Omernik.
In April 2017, Niantic reported more than 65 million Pokemon GO users, surpassing well over 650 million downloads from various app stores. The app has grown a lot since it was first released, and now trainers can spin at Pokemon gyms as well as pokestops––and did we mention the sweet new graphics?
Chicago's Pokemon Fest sold out in 10 minutes flat, with trainers cuing up outside of the Grant Park entrance at 6 a.m.
It almost rivaled San Diego ComiCon's Hall H! But Southern California's notorious hall and fandom event saw some big names come through its doors, and ticket prices have been rising steadily for years.
Did you miss this weekend's Pokemon event? No worries! Join your city's Pokemon GO Facebook group or Discord channel, and keep your eyes and ears open for news about the next event!
For those of you in the San Jose, California or Northern California region, the next ice cream social and Pokemon event is this coming Saturday, July 29th, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. PST.