It may already be largely forgotten at this point in time, but four years ago in this same month of 2016, the world for a time was briefly changed by the release of a mobile game. “Pokémon Go,” based on the long-running Nintendo videogame franchise, encouraged players not only to walk around their neighborhoods to catch the titular Pokémon rendered on their GPS data, but also interact with fellow gamers. Such mass-gathering social behavior is a sin in the year of COVID-19, but it did not stop Niantic from celebrating four years of “Pokémon Go” with a virtual event that had participants reaching a milestone.
The Verge tells us that Niantic’s online-only “Pokémon Go Fest” anniversary promo event still managed to get plenty of interested people aboard. This is even though A) the mobile game despite still having regular players is now well out of the mainstream limelight, and B) the COVID-19 outbreak preventing any physical assemblies in the US and other territories to celebrate four years of “Go.” According to app developer Niantic, making “Go Fest” a virtual event may have actually encouraged plenty of still-active gamers to join in on the mass Pokémon catching frenzy in the game.
If Niantic’s statistics are counted, during the “Go Fest” event that ran during the final weekend of July, “millions” of trainers hailing from 124 countries where “Pokémon Go” is playable (having accessible GPS data to plot locations of the player and geographical addresses corresponding to in-game venues), and they ended up catching close to a billion individual Pokémon before the “Go Fest” period concluded. Niantic even mixed up spawn rates a bit, allowing specific Pokémon to appear outside their regular map locations, a boon for rare hunters expanding their collections.
What is more, owing to the difficulties and risk of outside movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, Niantic helped “Pokémon Go” players by enhancing game items to increase spawn rates in wider areas than just urban centers. Still, some gamers risked infection by taking strolls outside to hunt for creatures to catch, with Niantic recording an average walking distance for the Fest duration of 15 kilometers. All a player had to do was pay an online ticket price of $14.99 to officially participate in the “Pokémon Go Fest,” with proceeds being dedicated to local community rebuilding by US NPOs. A minimum $5 million pledge by Niantic has been eclipsed by $10 million from worldwide ticket sales, as if proving that even without media coverage “Pokémon Go” is assured of sticking around.
Image courtesy of Eurogamer