Following the disastrous outcome of the first-ever Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago this month, Niantic has decided to delay its upcoming European events, previously scheduled for August. These events were meant to further stoke interest in the still popular mobile game, which encourages people to venture out in the real world to catch Pokémon, and compete in battles and raids. But the Chicago event was an epic failure -- roughly 20,000 attendees faced long lines to both enter and exit the festival and, while there, they found they couldn't even play.
The large numbers of attendees had crashed the game's servers and the cell towers became overloaded. Players couldn't get online, leading Niantic to announce refunds at 2 PM on the day of the event.
In addition to the refunds, Niantic said it would credit attendees' accounts with $100 of its in-game currency called Pokécoins.
But for some attendees, Niantic's refund and its dole-out of virtual currency didn't go far enough. The company is now facing a class-action lawsuit, which claims the festival did not live up to the hype. Some game players had booked travel to Chicago, they said -- something they wouldn't have done had they known they wouldn't be able to play the game as advertised.
Niantic had said attendees could catch new Pokémon that would appear at the Chicago event for the first time. If the players there defeated these Legendary Pokémon, the Pokémon would start appearing in Raid battles worldwide, the company had also promised.
These real-world Pokémon GO events were not expected to be this large. Neither the company nor the cell towers were able to handle this many people all at once.
Now, Niantic needs to regroup and figure out its strategy for the events ahead.
This weekend, the company announced its plans to push back its planned real-world events in Europe as a result of the Chicago disaster.
Niantic said it's postponing the August 5th events planned for Copenhagen and Prague, as well as the August 12th events in Stockholm and Amsterdam. The events will be rescheduled for "later this fall," but Niantic didn't announce new dates.
According to the company statement, the decision was made "in order to guarantee the best possible gameplay experience for European Trainers."
Niantic also apologized for the inconvenience, saying "we...hope you understand that our priority is to ensure a great experience for Pokémon GO Trainers in Europe and around the world."
No other events are affected by this delay, however -- at least, not yet. The event scheduled for Yokohama, Japan on August 14th, and the events scheduled for September 16th in France, Spain, and Germany, will still go forward as planned.
To lessen the blow for European fans, Niantic said that some rarely seen Pokémon will pop up in certain European cities for a brief time.
While Pokémon GO's success led it to become the most-downloaded app of 2016, according to Apple, interest in the app has somewhat tapered off this year. The app is still in good standing as the No. 41 free app worldwide on the App Store, but the hype has worn off. While millions still play the game daily, it's been reported that four out of five users have quit. Niantic has attempted to stir up interest through special releases of new Pokémon, new features, and more.
The real-world events could have also helped to renew lapsed players' interest, while providing a unique experience for the game's more die-hard fans. Unfortunately for Niantic, there are still some kinks to work out, it seems.