20,000 receive refunds at tech-marred Pokemon Go Fest

The Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago was marred by technical difficulties, and the 20,000 attendees were refunded their $20 tickets and given $100 in product perks. Photo courtesy of PokeMon Go

July 23 (UPI) — Organizers at the Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago offered refunds to all 20,000 attendees because of technical problems.

Niantic, the company that created the location-based augmented reality game, issued full $20 ticket refunds Saturday to the players attending the event at Grant Park that marked the game’s one-year anniversary. It also gave them $100 in game currency and free game features.

“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.”

Mike Quigley, Niantic chief marketing officer, said after the announcement: “Obviously, today has not gone as planned. It has been a really unfortunate situation.”

A Niantic spokesperson told Business Insider the game studio was working with carriers AT&T and Verizon to direct more coverage to the park.

Participants, some of whom traveled from other continents, had to contend with connectivity issues and long wait lines. Local Pokemon groups were planning events in their hometowns, including in other countries.

Participants — who are called trainers — in Chicago shouted: “Fix the game! Fix the game!”

“Almost everyone on the festival grounds who didn’t have Sprint as a provider was unable to log in to the game,” Bandon Omernik, who traveled from Wisconsin for the festival, wrote to CNN in a message.

Cat Harris said she waited three hours to get inside Grant Park and then also had connectivity issues.

“I maybe caught 20 Pokemon and if I was at home would have caught over 200 plus,” Harris, who flew in from Tucson, Ariz., wrote in a message to CNN.

“Overall, I am disappointed. I felt it was very [unorganized] and needs a lot of improvement,” added Harris, who grew up watching the popular animated TV show, Pokemon. “I feel the location was not appropriate and made it difficult to play depending on your cellphone provider.”

Harris and Omernik found some upside to the event.

“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.

“I was still happy to meet so many awesome people playing the game, however, and the weather was perfect,” Omernik said.

Trainers were promised never-before-seen Pokemon, including a chance to catch the first ultra-powerful Legendary Pokemon.

In its statement, Niantic said all registered attendees would also have a new feature — the Legendary Pokemon, Lugia — added to their accounts.

Special Pokemon, Eggs and check-in PokeStops appearing during Pokémon Go Fest also had their range increased to a 2-mile radius surrounding Grant Park through Monday morning.

“For a bit, it was like taking a time machine back to last summer, with everyone out in the street, exploring and finding Pokemon,” Forbes contributor Dave Thier wrote. “In some ways, that’s why Pokemon Go Fest the actual event was doomed to fail: it tried to rope in an experience that’s meant to live outside. On a practical level, it failed because you just couldn’t cram that many people playing the game in one spot and expect the technical side of things to hold. On a conceptual level, it failed because it just wasn’t what this game is meant to be.”

Pokemon Go offers in-app purchases and was estimated to be the fastest mobile game to reach $1 billion in revenue — seven months, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower.


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