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A Look At: Pokémon GO Fest 2020

Please Note: The following story and opinions about Pokémon GO Fest 2020 are that of the writer and not necessarily the views or opinions of Gaming2gether Media or others affiliated with G2G.

Pokémon GO Fest is an experience. If you’ve been to one of the physical GO Fest over the last few years – you’d understand, and perhaps, at first, feel that this year’s festivities are somewhat – subdued.

With the current global pandemic, GO Fest 2020 has been rolled out as a “play at home” edition, and with it comes some caveats.

day one

Wild spawns are definitely not as rampant as they were in Yokohama 2019 –  but for good reason.

Niantic designed GO Fest 2020 to be a playable by anyone – from home. This means that the main spawns of the event were built around Incense. Unown, in particular, were only from incense, so hopefully those who did play remembered to drop Incense. We did get 10 free Incense from the special research line, which covered costs for the day.

Wild spawns were present – but not boosted. In all fairness, with the intention of having people play from home, boosting wild spawns would be counter intuitive. It would mean those stuck at home would have a significantly inferior experience to those outside, and thus – this is most likely why the decision was made.

It was not bad. While those lucky enough to be in a place where quarantines and lockdowns are not as heavy, being out and about, Lures and wild spawns gave a slightly better experience, but there was no significant loss to those who had to stay at home. That being said, seeing the shiny rates of incensed Pokémon boosted would have been a nice touch – and would then benefit everyone who bought a ticket. 

The availability of gifts to replenish Poké Balls, as well as the 200 Great Balls gifted to players through the research line, also all contributed to the playability. The number of new shiny spawns were a nice surprise – no one expected quite this many to drop, but again, increased shiny rates for ticket holders on Incense would have been nice, and would have also made the event feel more exclusive. There were some reports of non-ticket holders ending up with more shiny off wild spawns than ticket holders playing from home, which did somewhat make the ticket feel a bit less exclusive. 

day two

A somewhat different GO Fest experience came to us on the second day – revolving around Team GO Rocket “Taking Over” the event. While interesting, it didn’t quite feel like “GO Fest”. 

Up to this point, people heading into GO Fest look forward to a day of catching and shiny hunting. Having to juggle that, along with raiding and battling Team GO Rocket made it feel a bit overwhelming. Players had to choose what they wanted to focus on – and with a lot of people missing out on shiny from Day One, it was fair to assume a lot of people would be focusing on the hunt. 

Similar to Day One, while somewhat adequate, it did feel like Incense spawns could have been improved. The regular appearance of Ferroseed, Snorlax, and Stunfisk may have excited Battlers but, for those focused on the shiny hunt, they were merely distractions. 

Making Team GO Rocket battles easier was a nice touch – seemingly geared to ensure that lower leveled ticket holders would be able to have a similar playing experience. However, it felt like the battles got easier as the day went on, with the combat power of the Grunts and Leaders gradually falling. If it was in fact a global decrease, this seems a bit unfair for New Zealand and the rest of APAC, as they would have been battling harder, and, therefore battles taking more time? Let us know in the comments!


Suggestions for Improvements

Of course the event was not perfect. Perfection is almost impossible to achieve – there will always be something to improve on, and my hope is Niantic takes some things back from what happened during the event.

Lag/Gameplay Delay

First, was the lag. Lag hit hard at a few points in time, especially on Day One. The first was when the mass of players in Japan got online. Several intermittent lag spikes occurred after but, were generally kept under control. There were lag spikes later in the day when Europe came online, and a significant spike during the Friendship hour which also somewhat impeded gameplay. Mainly because lag was occurring in the part of play concerning gifting, and opening gifts – which just happened to be the Challenge for that hour. Day Two had significantly better playability, but there were still lag spikes here and there. 

Considering Niantic already knew how many people had purchased tickets, it was slightly surprising to see this issue occur as often as it did. Hopefully, these things get ironed out in the future, and those who did lose out on Remote Raid Passes will eventually get them back. A makeup event has been announced for Sunday, August 16th from 11am – 2pm local time. During this time, they will rotate three habitats for existing ticket holders only. To learn more, visit this announcement and let us know your thoughts in the comments.


Another point of improvement would perhaps be on specific spawns. Some spawns – notably previous Community Day spawns like Mudkip, Slakoth, and Torchic, and also Research Day spawns like Clamperl, could potentially be left out of future GO Fest.

While I can understand that not everyone would have participated in these before, it seems somewhat counter productive to have these spawns en masse. Decreasing these spawns, and giving more focus to the appearing regionals as well as new shinies could potentially give people a bit more excitement.

With the focus on ticket holders, Incense Spawns could also have been boosted, both in terms of shiny rates, as well as spawn timers.

With time being spent taking down Team GO Rocket and raids, especially on Day Two, it would have been a nice touch for Pokemon Spawning on incense to “Stack” – where they spawned every 1 minute as usual, but, stayed on the map for 5, giving people time to take down raids, or a Team GO Rocket Grunt, and still come back to spawns. As it was, usage of Incense was somewhat inefficient, due to the time spent off screen battling. 

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Great Potential

One thing about all this though – Niantic has executed a fairly solid thought out program for a virtual GO Fest considering the changes that they were required to make, and this excites me! This shows much potential for the future.

Previously, GO Fest was limited to certain cities, in certain countries. While in the US, a flight to Chicago typically isn’t too extreme in cost. Same goes for traveling within Europe. However, for the APAC region, travel can, and does, get pretty expensive when it comes to a physical GO Fest.

With the success (in my mind) of GO Fest 2020, the potential of an extended “Play at Home” version of GO Fest in the future could possibly be considered.

Of course, it would need to be differentiated from those that do make the trip, so, there would need to be additional things in place. 

A slightly different badge (gold rimmed vs silver rimmed), for example, would be a start. As would potential raids and special trades. Niantic has a year to plan ahead for 2021, so, hopefully this is something brought to the table.

Closing thoughts

There also seems to be some uproar in the Twitterverse regarding the “lowered” Shiny Rate in GO Fest. Personally, I didn’t find it too bad – but one can understand how some people might feel unhappy about it, especially compared to previous GO Fest events.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that GO Fest 2020 was split into two different days. Whereas in previous days, a shiny rate had to be maintained where everyone could potentially get their shiny within a day. With two different days of play, the shiny rate could conceivably be halved – with individuals ending up with the same number of total shiny as they would have previously in a single day of play. 

Of course, some people will never be happy – but addressing these concerns, by perhaps boosting the shiny rates of SOME spawns (Unown and Regionals, maybe…) this could be considered for the future. The increase in spawn rate for some spawns previously discussed would also help address this issue, as would boosting Incense spawn timers and shiny rates.

In the end, Pokémon GO Fest was originally designed to bring people together. It IS an experience of a lifetime. 

All in all, given the cards available, Niantic did a fairly good job in executing GO Fest this year. Their team spent their weekend working, trying to ensure players enjoyed it. Despite the hiccups, they did resolve them eventually – and for that, we must also show them some appreciation.

Having had the opportunity to attend both a physical GO Fest in 2019 and the virtual one in 2020, I would have to say that a large part of the experience is actually the physical meetup. There is something special – something ethereal – about being in one place with so many other people, doing the same thing. Enjoying the game we all love.

The play at home edition unfortunately means that this portion of the gameplay is mostly left out, other than the virtual meetups and lounges provided by Niantic, as well as the various streams from content creators. Unfortunately, this has meant some people start to focus on the shiny hunting side of GO Fest – comparing it to Community Day, or previous GO Fest.

I will have to say, from a personal standpoint, maybe, it would be time to take a step back in this case. Enjoy the game for what it is, and for what you have gotten. Enjoy the experience that is Pokémon GO Fest

Dare at Pokémon GO Fest 2020 in Malaysia
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