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Pokémon GO developers explain the technicalities behind its festival disaster

by Ron Duwell | July 27, 2017July 27, 2017 6:00 am PDT

Pokémon GO has become the object of ridicule once again after months of getting itself back on its feet and into the hands of gamers. Some will stand at a distance and sling mud, but I genuinely feel bad after all the hard work that Niantic did after the last half year to lure in goodwill and make their game more appealing.

What happened? Well, by now, you’ve heard that the first Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago’s Grant Park bombed. From awkward streaming events to nobody being able to play to glitches and legendary Pokémon not being available properly. Everything was a total disaster.

And now, we have an official explanation from Niantic CEO John Hanke as to why everything went wrong.

What happened? Technical issues with our game software caused client crashes and interfered with gameplay for some users. The gameplay issue was resolved with a server configuration change and the crashes were also addressed for many but not all users. A more protracted problem was caused by oversaturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers. This caused many attendees to be unable to access Pokémon GO or other Internet services. Network congestion also led to a login issue which affected some users able to access the Internet. This latency-related login issue was addressed with a second Niantic configuration change.

In other words, it’s exactly what happens when hundreds and thousands of people flood a game at the same time from the relatively same location. This happened to me at a fireworks festival last year in Japan, and that wasn’t even an officially sponsored event!

On the pure network access issue, we provided detailed estimates on attendance and required data throughput per user to our event partner who worked with the major carriers to allow them to plan for adequate coverage. Some carriers deployed Cellular on Wheels (COWs) to extend their capacity. In other cases the providers deemed them unnecessary based on other infrastructure already in place at the site. Users reported different levels of success with these providers. Wifi was enabled by one provider as a solution which helped some users but not all. Sprint was onsite as an official partner, deployed a COW, and their network was busy but held up well. Although many players were able to play normally for the majority of the day, many were not, and based on that we made a number of adjustments to the event plan.

Don’t be hard on them

The only people who have the right to be upset are those who went and were inconvenienced by this whole affair. Spending money to travel domestically and internationally is no joke, and those people have all the right in the world to be frustrated by how this turned out.

But naturally, the internet has made Niantic fair game once again. Doesn’t matter that Pokémon GO is a totally different experience than a year ago and has come leaps and bounds in making itself a lasting experience. So please, go easy on them. #%*& happens.

Niantic

Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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