The Pokemon GO Fest in Chicago last year was an absolutely disaster. 30K people attended, and the event was plagued with issues almost the entire day. It turned into a major blunder for Niantic, but they aren't letting that stop them. The gang is returning to Chicago for Pokemon GO Fest: A Walk in the Park, and Niantic CEO John Hanke is determined to set things right this year. In an interview with IGN, Hanke explains what went wrong last year, and how they plan to keep things going right for this year's event.
“Go Fest was a challenge for us, there’s no doubt. As the person who stood up on stage and directly faced the consequences of having the technical challenges, nobody felt it more strongly than I did. Particularly with all of you in the press there to witness that with us, and all of my board members, all of our partners…It was one of the most challenging days of my professional career.
Shortly after Chicago, we got to work on Yokohama, which was already scheduled and there was no dodging that. So we just had to make sure that we didn't screw up Yokohama.
We dove much, much deeper with the cellular network partners over there and really figured out how to talk to them and explain to them the technical requirements of an event like ours.
We made some changes to the way we plan the event. We organized it so that everybody wasn’t concentrated in the same place all the time, and, you know, we made it. There were some close calls that week. There were some times when the network slowed down, but it never went offline, and it was a huge success.
“We kind of learned how to do those. We’re coming back at it this year with all that experience and it’s exciting to go back to Chicago. I’m going to be there and I’m looking forward to it.
We will be lining up things across the city of Chicago as well as what’s happening in Lincoln Park to encourage that kind of flow that we resorted to at the end of the day last year as we were trying to figure out how to make a diving catch there in the afternoon. The evening [after last year’s Go Fest] in Chicago, despite the fact that the day had been so trying, was kind of a golden hour there. As people were out across the city, the weather kind of let up on us. There was a bit of rain a lot of the day, but a lot of the evening, it was nice and kind of cool, and people were out on the streets of Chicago having fun playing Pokemon Go. That’s the part of last year that we want to try to recapture this year.
All of the major carriers are deploying COWs (Cells on Wheels), so there will be mobile network hotspots from all the major carriers set up in such a way that we believe we will have full coverage, efficient coverage, for everybody throughout the park.
And again, our understanding and our ability to communicate with our partners exactly what the network traffic looks like, and really technically profiling it and communicating it on a technical level, we’re much better at that than we were a year ago, so that’s been the formula that we used last year in Yokohama and Tottori and other places, to really work closely with those network providers.”