Pokémon Go Fest usually sees avid trainers congregate in cities all over the world to celebrate the popular mobile game by working together to achieve goals, catch rare Pokémon and just generally have a good time. But this year, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, Niantic had to make some changes to Go Fest resulting in it becoming a truly global event where players could participate from home.
Now, we’ve already seen Niantic introduce an array of sweeping changes to the way Pokémon Go could be played, enabling anyone in lockdown to still play the game to some extent. But bringing their annual celebration in line with those changes was certainly their most ambitious post-lockdown move yet, though one that presented them with a unique opportunity. It allowed Niantic to bring the event to a much bigger audience than usual, opening it up to people who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to travel, pay hotel costs and so on.
What happened during Pokémon Go Fest 2020
Go Fest itself ran over two days for the first time ever, another perk of the event's unique circumstances. Each day had a different set of challenges and tasks for players to complete. Day one featured hourly rotating habitats of different types of Pokémon, as well as the aforementioned global challenges to unlock cool new themed weeks in the future, as well as in-game bonuses for during the festival. Day two saw players trying to save the festival from Team Rocket and encountering a never-before-seen Mythical Pokémon.
In terms of the Pokémon available, Niantic offered a wide range of sought after and rare Pokémon that ticket holders and non-participants could catch, many of which had been unlocked by all players completing challenges in the weeks prior. There were a few event exclusives, however, like the photobombing new debut Rotom, Unown ‘O’ and ‘G’, the three Kanto starters wearing Pikachu visors, the normally region-locked Durant and Heatmor, a group of Shadow legendary Pokémon and mythical Pokémon Victini.
Also exclusive to the event were the two ‘Go Fest 2020’ research tasks that reward players with a bucket-load of items, including, perhaps crucially to players playing from home and unable to reach Pokéstops, all the Pokéballs you could need for the event (even though I still almost ran out). Both research tasks were fun, rewarding really nice amounts of items and Pokémon and weren’t too difficult to complete.
There were also some added visual flourishes in the game, with themed confetti filling the sky as you played and even fireworks at night to signify the end of a hard day’s worth of catching 'em all. There were also some fun ‘Go Fest’ stickers given out, and some lucky trainers were also able to pick up ‘Go Fest’ souvenirs through their Buddy Pokémon.
What went wrong during Pokémon Go Fest 2020?
Unfortunately, there were a few niggles over the course of the two days, with a few moments of in-game lag and crashes that caused a plethora of errors, particularly for a large chunk of day one. These included being kicked from remote raids and unable to re-join, or being unable to catch Pokémon and access the friends list or send gifts. That said, Niantic did work to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, and have since announced they’re going to throw another event to make up for this.
Some weren’t happy with the rate of shiny Pokémon encounters as well. This was just a case of being unlucky rather than an actual issue with the event itself, though, since loads of people online caught a metric ton of the sought after rare variants. Still, I can see why unlucky people who paid money with expectations that Go Fest would be more lucrative than previously free shiny events, like Community Day, would feel those expectations haven’t been met.
Personally, I do feel that Pokémon Go Fest could have done more with the two days we were given. The two Go Fest tasks were really fun, but ultimately quite short in length, meaning that once they were completed there wasn’t much more to do other than just catch Pokémon as normal. Also, as the Pokémon available stayed the same over both days, it did get a little repetitive and directionless. I would like to have seen more tasks to complete later on in the day and a greater variety of Pokémon on offer.
Was Pokémon Go Fest 2020 a success?
Ultimately, it was a great weekend that made the game feel like a big event again, coming close to matching the buzz around its initial release. I saw more people out playing the game than I have in a long time. I've talked more with my friends about the Pokémon we did or didn’t catch than we have in a long time, and that’s certainly positive!
But, more importantly, the sense of community and shared experience was an incredibly needed and necessary thing because of the situation we're all in right now. As a result, it’s undeniable that Pokémon Go Fest was a success in one very important regard: it brought people together when they’ve never been further apart.