Niantic’s founder, John Hanke, posted a large blog recently, offering some technical explanation for what was, by all accounts, an unsuccessful first Pokémon Go Fest.
Hanke’s post is long and dense, and attempts to highlight some of the fest’s successes while offering some explanation for why people struggled to play the game, despite efforts to prepare. Here’s some of the more specific information about the issues copied directly from Hanke’s post:
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.
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.
While issues plagued Chicago, Hanke points out that a similar event in Chester, UK with 17,000 players went off without a hitch. Hanke also promised in the post that he is hoping to take lessons learned from Chicago to make upcoming events in Japan and the UK go smoother. Hanke ends the post with a promise for the game to perform better, citing similar hurdles that its previous game Ingress encountered. “At each stage of growth, we encountered challenges and each time we overcame them, we gained new skills and pioneered new techniques for building real-world experiences that support our mission,” Hanke wrote. “Last Saturday was not a happy day for us but we are committed to listening to that feedback, however harsh, to improve what we do so that we can continue to build experiences that bring together people, technology, and the real world in innovative ways.”
For our own reports from the event, be sure to read to read our on the ground reporting from Andrew Reiner, who was at the event. You can also read about Niantic’s plans to give attendees refunds and free in-game credit here.
I didn’t attend the Fest, but I am Pokémon Go player – one of the weirdos who has been playing pretty much daily since launch. Watching everything unfold this weekend was rough, and I particularly felt bad for those who traveled great distances who weren’t able to play the game. I appreciate Hanke and Niantic’s efforts to explain technically what happened, even if I admit to not fully understand the technical jargon, but I don’t know if it will be enough. Pokémon Go players have put up with a lot since launch, but this may mark the end for a lot of players. Hanke’s claim that only “some users” were affected seems like an understatement. If it wants to do another Fest again in the future, Niantic has a lot of expectations to overcome. Now if you’ll excuse me – I need to find people who will help me get Articuno before it disappears.