Pokemon Go Fest 2022 and the Season of Go continue to bring new content to the game, with players in Berlin, Germany enjoying the first in-person Go Fest event in nearly three years. With Go Fest: Seattle following Berlin later this month, Niantic has “shaken off the rust” as the team regains momentum to host players in select markets around the world.
Not only is this a return to in-person events after doing everything exclusively online or, in tiny samplings, offline for the past three years, but the team has decided to host its expanded Go Fest events in three new major event locations: Seattle, Berlin and Sapporo. According to Niantic director Michael Steranka, this, along with some specific changes to event formats, is a conscious decision despite the challenges they pose for the team.
“Every time we go to a new city, a new park, it’s like we’re almost starting from scratch. You know what I mean?” Steranka told Dot Esports. “There are so many unique things to explore in each location. And all the different carriers have to work with all the different carriers and make sure you have strong connections there to do that “You can set up all the cellular infrastructure. I think just getting back on track is the biggest challenge of all. But of course there’s always a new learning curve when you go to a brand new place.”
It’s a mindset Niantic has adopted since its days hosting in-person meetings and events Pokemon Go originally launched in 2016. This includes the inaugural Go Fest in July 2017, which Steranka says was “a huge learning experience” for the team as it showed what they needed to improve to ensure the events had adequate infrastructure.
But even with the challenges that come with a return to in-person events, Niantic is still grappling with backlash from frustrated players over last month’s first global Go Fest 2022 event, as well as general unhappiness over changes to the game.
Previously, Steranka and other developers commented on some of these changes, confirming that Niantic has no plans to remove remote raids from the game Pokemon Go, and is focused on introducing new features to encourage personal gameplay rather than further interfering with other styles of play. This is something the company considers one of the most difficult things to juggle in the context of a live service title with players around the world.
Related: Niantic thinks the “pendulum has swung too far” when it came to letting players play Pokémon Go from home
“When you’re dealing with so many players around the world Pokemon Go, it’s difficult to balance things out for each individual person and we’re definitely doing our best and we’re trying to look at the data that we have to make the best decisions possible,” Steranka said. Those choices extend to Shiny Pokémon, which Steranka admitted can create “a very frustrating experience” for players who are unlucky with their Shiny encounters.
The mention of Shiny Pokémon encounters is in reference to some of the more prominent backlash Niantic has received regarding Go Fest 2022, with many players reporting a significant drop in Shiny encounters during the global event.
Originally, Steranka noted that encountering too many Shiny Pokémon “harms the game in the long run,” but he adds that he and the team empathize with these unfortunate players, which is one of the reasons why the global Go Fest now instead a three day event is out of two. This change was made to “open up more options” for players looking to encounter specific Pokémon or Shinies.
Niantic listens to feedback and works to ensure as many players as possible have an experience worth living this summer, but also notes that balancing events for millions of players around the world isn’t a problem is exact science.