Pokemon GO Fest Goes Awry

This past weekend was supposed to be a historic one for the augmented reality game Pokemon GO. And history was made, but not exactly as planned.

Pokemon GO Fest took place in Grant Park in Chicago and was supposed to bring over 20,000 people together for a community-oriented event that would introduce legendary Pokemon to the game. Players had to pass three challenge windows then complete an in-game event to introduce the most sought after creatures to the rest of the world. But things went wrong before the gates to the festival even opened.

Pokemon GOers around Chicago reported connectivity issues trying to get into the game four hours before the festival doors opened. Things only went downhill from there. Players could not connect to the servers, swamping the available bandwidth until the servers eventually crashed.

Pokemon GO developer Niantic took several hours to address the issues. The company’s regularly scheduled programming went on throughout the day, with talks from employees, prominent community members and even John Hanke, Niantic’s CEO. Hanke walked out to the stage amidst widespread jeering.

“I know some of you guys have had trouble getting logged on this morning,” Hanke told the crowd.

The crowd yelled back: “Fix the game!”

These issues might be bearable for a normal player walking their dog at a nearby park, but fest goers paid to attend the event, with aftermarket tickets reaching $500 each. On top of this, people travelled from all over the world to have the first attempt at catching a legendary Pokemon.

Not until 2 p.m., four hours after the doors opened, did Niantic to speak to the connection problems.

“This is not the day that we had all envisioned, but we appreciate your patience,” Niantic CMO Mike Quigley told the crowd.

Niantic has since offered refunds to all attendees, as well as $100 worth of in-game currency for free. They also placed the first legendary Pokemon available in the AR game, a mythical bird called Lugia, into all attendees accounts.