Pokémon Go Fest let players in Grant Park, Chicago unlock bonuses that players around the world helped extend — and led to the release of the first Legendary Pokémon!

Pokémon Go held it's first real-world event — Pokémon Go Fest Chicago. It took place Saturday, July 22, 2017. While tickets sold out almost instantly and the event had serious issues, Niantic and the Pokémon community managed to come together in the end for a Legendary night in Chicago.

July 25, 2017: John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, comments on Pokémon Go Fest failures

John Hanke, CEO of Pokémon Go developer, Niantic, can shared his thoughts on the network and in-game failures at Pokémon Go Fest Chicago, and the company's plans going forward.

From Niantic

During Pokémon GO Fest 2017 in Chicago we encountered software and network problems that prevented many people from being able to connect to the game. Players were disappointed with their experience that morning, and we heard boos and shouts from the crowd. We'd like to update you on what caused these issues.

While our technical team worked diligently with our event vendor and telecommunications companies to attempt to resolve the issues, I spent nearly the entire day talking face to face with attendees. So did much of the team of Niantic staff who came to Chicago to support the event. During the hours I spent talking to attendees, I passed on the information we had and communicated our policy on refunds and game credits once we had them but mostly I listened to what our players had to say. Certainly many were upset and I did my best to listen and offer any assistance that I could. Some were able to play normally (more on that later) and more than a few Unown Pokémon were captured by those gathered around to talk.

Hanke was amazing in that regard. He walked the event in the morning and then sat for hours beneath the pounding sun signing autographs, chatting, and handling an enormous amount of frustration from attendees.

Among those who came up to me, many shared stories of how important the game was to them. Some talked about losing weight, others about a path to recovery after serious illness, and some about repaired relationships with children, siblings and parents. Many groups of friends who had traveled together talked about the shared bond the game created for them. For those stories I am grateful because it was obviously an incredibly stressful and disappointing day for all of us. Both I personally and all of Niantic apologize for the inconvenience and frustration.

What happened? Technical issues with our game software caused client crashes and interfered with gameplay for some users. The gameplay issue was resolved with a server configuration change and the crashes were also addressed for many but not all users. A more protracted problem was caused by oversaturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers. This caused many attendees to be unable to access Pokémon GO or other Internet services. Network congestion also led to a login issue which affected some users able to access the Internet. This latency-related login issue was addressed with a second Niantic configuration change.

I had a mix of both problems. In the media area, everything worked fine on T-Mobile. If I tried any other carrier or If I walked 10 feet out of the media area, either carrier service or Pokémon Go ground to a halt.

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. 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. Although many players were able to play normally for the majority of the day, many were not, and based on that we made a number of adjustments to the event plan.

Grant Park is set up to handle the much, much bigger crowds of Lalapalooza. Pokémon Go was maybe one quarter or one fifth that size. My guess is they didn't properly account for the difference in data use between an average Lalapalooza-er and a Pokémon Go player, the networks got hit like a freight train, and they went down hard.

Both the carriers and Niantic should have known better. (And, obviously, Niantic had problems of its own as well.)

Early in the afternoon we informed players that we would refund tickets to those who wanted it and would grant $100 USD in PokéCoins to all attendees due to the inconvenience. We also released the 'unique' Pokémon spawning at the event to the surrounding neighborhoods to give people a way to catch them where the mobile network was stronger.

Later in the afternoon we announced the winner of the challenge and let players know that all attendees would receive a Legendary Pokémon in their accounts.

In the early evening, as part of a planned gameplay update for all Trainers globally, we released the Legendary Pokémon Articuno and Lugia to spawn in a broader area around downtown Chicago and around the world.

That's when Pokémon GO Trainers did something awesome. As people filed out of the event into surrounding areas where the cellular network was less overburdened, they were able to play together and to capture Legendary Pokémon 'in the wild.' It was inspiring to watch Trainers band together with their friends and to enjoy the beautiful evening together despite the struggles of the day. That spirit extended well into the night and resumed again the next day with clusters of Pokémon GO Trainers roaming the city battling Legendary Pokémon throughout the day Sunday. Together, from late Saturday to Sunday, Trainers in downtown Chicago participated in more than 69,000 Raid Battles and captured more than 7.7 million Pokémon, including more than 440,000 Legendary Pokémon. It was an amazing sight to behold and is a testament to the love of the game and to the bonds these Trainers share with one another.

This part was truly amazing. A batter event, perhaps, than the one Niantic originally had planned. (I wrote about it here: Pokémon Go Fest Chicago: The fun, the failure, and the legendary)

Trainers from around the world joined in as well. During that same time period they participated in more than 4.6 million Raid Battles and caught more than 500 million Pokémon, including more than 1.9 million Legendary Pokémon.

At the same time we were struggling in Chicago, an amazing event was unfolding in Chester, UK, organized by our partner Big Heritage. More than 17,000 people visited that event over two days in one of England's oldest and most historic settings. The combination of history and family-oriented Pokémon GO play was a hit.

We will be folding all of our learnings into the Pokémon GO events planned for later this summer in Yokohama, Japan and across Europe.

I sincerely hope they do.

July 24, 2017: Pokémon Go Fest Chicago: The fun, the failure, and the legendary

Pokémon Go Fest Chicago brought almost 20,000 players together for the game's first real-world event. And it failed. Hard. But from that failure a real Pokémon Festival in Chicago emerged.

This was my experience:

Read Pokémon Go Fest Chicago: The fun, the failure, and the legendary

July 22, 2017: Pokémon Go Fest fallout: Lugia unlocked, all bonuses unlocked, Articuno on deck

Plagued by massive cellular data and Pokémon Go server issues, Pokémon Go Fest Chicago ended more with relief than fanfare. Thanks to the players in Chicago, all bonuses (XP, Stardust, Candy, etc.) have been unlocked. Thanks to players around the world, those bonuses will be active for 48 hours. And... the first Legendary Pokémon has been unlocked.

Because of the server issues, Pokémon Go Fest couldn't do a Legendary Raid on-site. Instead, everyone registered for the event will get Lugia added to their account.

Lugia will also start to appear in Legendary Raids around the world in the next 48 hours.

Articuno, one of the Legendary Birds, will be released shortly thereafter. That's thanks to Team Mystic, the team associated with Articuno, "winning" the day by virtue of catching the most Pokémon. (Valor was second, Instinct third, so Moltres and Zapdos are good guesses for the Legendary to follow).

For everyone in Chicago, the radius for "rare" spawns (i.e. Heracross and Unown letters C, O, and W) has been expanded to 2 miles around Grant Park. Special Pokémon Go Fest 2 KM Eggs have also been extended for 2 miles, as has the QR code sign-in process for the small percentage of players who haven't yet been able to register.

That'll last until Monday. Refunds, $100 Poke Coin credits, and Lugia will all be tied to registration, so make sure you get that done if you haven't already.

July 22, 2017: New Special Boxes in the Poké Shop just in time for Go Fest!

Pokémon Go Fest is about to kick off in Chicago and new Special, Great, and Ultra Boxes have appeared in the Pokémon Shop to go along with it. Inside are Premium Raid Passes, so you can battle in more Raids, Pinap Berries, so you can get double Candy for your catches, and Lures, so you can attract more Pokémon to PokéStops to catch. That's a lot of stuff for a few little boxes but, the big questions remain: are they worth your Poké Coins? And which box is best?

Read: Should you buy the new Poké Shop Boxes: Which ones are worth your coins!

July 21, 2017: Pokémon Go Fest will be broadcast live on YouTube!

I'm on the ground in Chicago and will be covering the event as it happens, but if you want to watch the full stream, Pokémon Go Live is making it available on YouTube.

Happy catching!

What's Pokémon Go Fest?

Pokémon Go Fest Chicago is the first major real-world event for Niantic's incredibly popular augmented reality, geo-hunting game. It takes place this Saturday, July 22, at Grant Park. Players on location in Chicago will be able to unlock bonuses that people around the world can then help extend for longer periods of time.

From Pokémon Go:

Pokémon GO Fest (Saturday, July 22 taking place in Grant Park, Chicago, IL) is fast approaching, and we hope you're all as excited as we are. We wanted to share some details about how Pokémon GO Trainers everywhere can participate in a global challenge with Trainers at the event to unlock special rewards worldwide.

During the day, there will be three Challenge Windows in which Trainers everywhere will work alongside those in Chicago to unlock global rewards. During the Challenge Windows, Trainers in Grant Park will attempt to unlock perks for Pokémon GO players around the world by catching certain types of Pokémon. Each Pokémon- type will be tied to a different perk, so Trainers at the park will need to carefully choose which Pokémon they catch. Will those in attendance try to catch Electric-type Pokémon to reduce the distance required to hatch Eggs, or Grass-type Pokémon to increase Stardust bonuses, or other Pokémon- types to secure a variety of other bonuses? Join in the action and find out!

Meanwhile, Trainers outside of Chicago will attempt to catch as many Pokémon as possible during the Challenge Windows to extend the duration of the bonuses unlocked by those attending the event. If Trainers around the world catch enough Pokémon, a mystery challenge will be unveiled in Grant Park that, once completed, will unlock an extra-special bonus across the globe. Trainers everywhere will want to grab their friends and family to help make this the biggest celebration in Pokémon GO's history!

The game has provided a helpful infographic with the details:

Can you text that up for us?

Trainers at Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago will have three half-hour challenge windows where they can:

  • Catch Fire types to unlock a Candy bonus.
  • Catch Water types to unlock an XP bonus.
  • Catch Grass types to unlock a Stardust bonus.
  • Catch Electric types to unlock an Egg hatching bonus.
  • Catch Ground types to unlock a Buddy distance bonus.
  • Catch Normal types to unlock an encounter rate bonus.

So, um, which ones are best to catch?

Grass types. Stardust is seriously hard to get and, while there have been several XP and Candy events over the last year, there's only been one Stardust event.

What can players outside Chicago do to help?

Players around the world can then catch Pokémon to extend the duration of the bonus by:

  • Bronze: 24 hrs.
  • Silver: 48 hrs.
  • Gold: Mystery Challenge unlocked.

What's the mystery challenge?

We don't know yet — it's a mystery! And it'll be unlocked back at Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. If it's completed, a global reward is unlocked for everyone.

So, it'll be catch-a-palooza on Saturday and, hopefully, a lot more to follow over the weekend.

Has Pokémon Go said anything else about Pokémon Go Fest?

Here's the original announcement from Pokémon Go:

We're also excited to announce our first ever real-world Pokémon GO event coming your way: Pokémon GO Fest Chicago! This event will take place in downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA at the beautiful Grant Park on July 22, 2017. Join us as we celebrate the Pokémon GO community with a ton of exciting festivities. Tickets and more information for Pokémon GO Fest Chicago will be available at PokemonGoLive.com/Fest on Monday, June 19 at 10:00 A.M. PDT, so make sure to mark your calendars and follow our social media channels to be notified when tickets go live! European Trainers can look forward to Pokémon GO celebrations hosted across the continent from June through September in partnership with Unibail-Rodamco shopping centers. We'll be posting a complete schedule for these events very soon. Also, The Pokémon Company is organizing "Pikachu Outbreak", a Pokémon event in Yokohama, Japan, in August where they're exploring a unique Pokémon GO experience. Stay tuned for even more details surrounding each of these events in the coming weeks.

And from Pokémon Go Fest:

Catch a wide variety of Pokémon, including some that have never been seen before in Grant Park. This is a great chance to fill in some gaps in your Pokédex.

Work together with thousands of Trainers in the park and millions around the world to complete challenges throughout the day and unlock amazing in-game rewards globally. More details about these challenges and rewards will be revealed in the coming weeks.

See above for more on that!

Unlock an exclusive Pokémon GO Fest Chicago medal for your profile page—the first of its kind!

Lace up your most comfortable walking shoes and get ready for the Pokémon GO Fest walking course, lined with PokéStops that award special 2 km Eggs which can only be obtained in Grant Park.

What about Legendary Raids?

That could be what gets unlocked — the first Mew or Mewtwo Tier 5 Raid Battle. Either way, both Legendary Raid Eggs and Legendary Raid Passes have been rumored, so we'll have to wait and see!

How to prepare for Legendary Raids in Pokémon Go

What do you need to take with you for Pokémon Go Fest?

Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, shoes, batteries, headphones, water bottles, and more! That's what'll save you from the sun burns, the bugs bite, the heat parches, and the kilometers blister.

Sunscreen

Like Superman, we're powered by the rays of our strong yellow sun. But what makes us stronger can also burn us. That's why really good sun screen is an absolute must for anyone spending any time outside this summer.

The Sweethome recommends NO-AD Sport SPF 50 or Coppertone Oil Free Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30.

A hat

It could be for your favorite sports team. It could be for your best-loved geek franchise. It could be from the latest fashion line or simply surplus. Whatever the branding — or lack thereof — the important thing is that it keeps the sun off your head and provides shade for your eyes.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses aren't just about looking cool. OK, they're a lot about looking cool, but they're also about protecting your eyes. Anything and everything from particulates to UV light can get into and damage your eyes while you're out and about, especially if you're out an about at velocity on a bike, board, boat or skates.

The Wirecutter likes the Ryders Sevent and the Julbo Aero. For a less sporty, more budget pick, try ZeroUV Longhorn.

Shoes

Pounding the pavement is as brutal on your feet as it sounds. Cement and asphalt are hard and, the latter especially, can get HOT. If you're on the trails, there are rocks, thorns, and trash to worry about as well. So, if you want your feet to last, and with a minimum of blisters and strain, get good shoes. For most activities, I love Nike Free.

Battery pack

No drain, no gain! It's goofy but it's true: Many outdoor activities demand a lot of power. If your Apple Watch is in workout mode, the heart rate monitor is firing. If your phone is being used to battle in Pokémon Gyms or navigate through a national park, the screen is lit and the GPS is hard at work. If you have a backpack with you, I like the mophie powerstation XX because it can charge multiple devices multiple times. If you're sticking strictly to pockets or fanny packs, the TravelCard is great. If you have an iPhone but want it to be more like an iPhone Plus when you're out and about, Apple's Smart Battery Case has an efficiency that simply can't be beat.

Water, water, water

It's critically important to stay hydrated when you're out, especially in the heat. That means drinking water regularly. You can find a fountain or Apple Pay for a bottle whenever you need it, but by the time you're thirsty you're already late. If you have a backpack or even a decent-sized pocket or pack, keep some water with you and sip regularly. Otherwise, make sure you stop regularly to refresh. Set a timer if you have to.

What else do you need to know about Pokémon Go Fest?

As the event approaches, we'll hopefully get and share more information. Until then, let us know if you have any questions!