One year ago this month, Pokemon Go was released worldwide for smartphones. Since then, the game has been downloaded more than 750 million times.
Players have caught more than 100 billion Pokemon on their phones, they’ve walked more than 10 billion kilometers, and most importantly to the company that released the game, Niantic, it has made $1.2 billion. Even though only a fraction of people still play that did originally, the game is still in the top 10 games on the iPhone app store and pulls in more than a million dollars a day. While most phone games disappear from people's home screens as quickly as they appear, Pokemon Go has proven to have a special kind of longevity.
In fact, last Saturday, Niantic hosted Pokemon Go Fest, a special event in Chicago’s Grant Park for the most dedicated Pokemon Go players. The event sold all 20,000 tickets moments after they went on sale, and Niantic promised lots of exclusive rewards and even a chance to catch some of the rarest Pokemon in the game, monsters that hadn’t been seen anywhere before.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of both Niantic and cell phone carriers, who brought additional cell towers to the event to try to handle the additional load, the event was a disaster. Cell network congestion issues started as early as 10 a.m., when the event was supposed to begin. Upset players stood at the main stage, chanting, “Fix the game!” An hour later, almost nobody could log in and play. By the end of the day, the park still had groups of people trying to catch the rare Pokemon there in the park, but still having issues staying connected. Niantic ended up refunding everyone’s tickets and giving them in-game bonuses.
These issues echo the problems players had during the game’s explosive launch last year, where the game’s servers couldn’t keep up with the players who wanted to get in and play. Eventually, these got worked out, and I’m hoping that maybe by Pokemon Go’s second birthday there might be a Pokemon Go Fest that doesn’t leave everyone disappointed.