Go Fest 2018 was a 2-day event on July 14th and 15th that took place in Lincoln Park in Chicago, IL. After a disastrous event in 2016, Niantic was poised to make changes to ensure that this event would be a success. Mobile cell towers were brought in to increase cell data capacity. Lincoln Park is significantly more spread out than Grant Park (prior year location), leading to lower player density. While Lincoln Park was still open to the public, all spawns and stops were removed. You could only interact with the game if you had a Go Fest ticket for that day.
Many trainers began arriving on Friday to get an early start on the weekend. While there were no in-game perks, there was quite a bit of action. Most every Regice raid downtown filled up multiple lobbies. Lures were up from early morning into the night. Trainers were everywhere you looked in Chicago. In the late afternoon, a group of YouTubers held an event to meet trainers at the entrance to Lincoln Park. Though many lined up to meet the game’s personalities, the longest line was for Niantic’s Will Call window. Some trainers had not all received their wristbands in time, so they were trying to make sure to have everything ready to go before Go Fest officially started.
Let’s give Niantic credit for pivoting here. In the evening, an email went out stating that you did not need your wristband to enter. A digital code was sent to everyone who bought a ticket instead. When Saturday morning came, there were NO LINES! Trainers with tickets could spin one of the few in-game Go Fest PokeStops in Lincoln Park. They could then scan their wristband or enter their code, and after that, the spawns and many more stops appeared.
Once trainers activated their Go Fest experience, they were immediately inundated with Torkoal and Unown (C E L B I ?). In addition, they received info from Professor Willow about a new research storyline which would hyield Celebi. Ticket holders were told to enter from the north or south entrance, but the experience was pretty much the same. Both entrances had high PokeStop density. As an added bonus, each PokeStop in Lincoln Park gave a simple quest that rewarded 1 Rare Candy each.
In addition to the above-mentioned exclusives, most of the spawns in this area were Pokemon with a shiny form like Magikarp, Swablu, Shuppet, Plusle, and Minun, among many others. It was not uncommon for many players to walk away from the event with a handful of shiny Pokemon.
Within Lincoln Park itself between the 2 entrances were 4 different biomes: ice, volcanic, desert, and jungle. Ice featured Swinub, Snorunt, and Seel. While Torkoal was pretty rare outside of the entrances, it did appear in volcanic along with Houndour, Torchic, and other Fire Pokemon. Desert had Cacnea everywhere as well as its fair share of Trapinch and Aron. The jungle had the densest spawn rate of all of them, featuring Alolan Exeggutor and Treecko alongside some commons like Hoppip.
In real life, there were 3 team tents (Instinct, Mystic, and Valor) near each entrance. The biomes were physically built, which was both a nice touch and a great way to get AR photos. There were MCs who were running giveaways every half an hour at the team tents and biomes. You might win a poster if you had the most King’s Rock or a shirt for most stops spun. When the contests were not active, the MCs tried to facilitate trades between players. “This guy has a Tropius and wants a Corsola. Who can help him!”
The Celebi quest was fairly simple to complete but still engaging nonetheless. Initially, the requirements were to catch Pokemon, spin stops, and get a buddy candy. After that, you had to catch 10 Pokemon of a bunch of different types found throughout the biomes. Next, you had to catch 7 Unown and hatch some eggs to get your Celebi encounter. Finally, you needed to catch some Plusle & Minun to get Celebi candy. The rewards were pretty good and included Super Incubators, Raid Passes, XP, stardust, and unique encounters that are not caught in the wild like Ludicolo, Aggron, and Metagross!
For the most part, both days ran very smoothly. There were some brief phone carrier outages, but nothing remotely like 2017 or even the Dortmund Safari earlier in the month. More food vendors would have been appreciated; however, Taste of Chicago was happening a few miles away, so most local food trucks were elsewhere. A few other commonly heard complaints:
There were not enough stops given the spawn density. Many trainers ran low on balls and spent the end of the day shiny checking.
All gyms were removed from the park. There were no raids at the event and no chance to battle for control of a gym.
Many players wished that the restrictions and cost of special trades could have been reduced for the event.
There were minimal ways to collaborate with other trainers. It would have been nice to give people a reason to look up from their phones and interact with trainers from all over the world.
Nianitic encouraged those with Sunday passes or those who hadn’t gotten tickets to play downtown on Saturday (downtown Chicago was about an hour walk from where Go Fest was taking place). They advertised special spawns and raids, and trainers were not disappointed. Nearly every spawn was event related, with huge number of Gen 3 starters, Beldum, Alolan Exeggutor, Lotad, Feebas, Alolan Geodude, and more spawning in the wild and off lures.
Around 2 PM, Legendary eggs appeared and trainers were surprised to see a mix of Articuno and Lugia - a Go Fest 2017 throwback. This happened a few more times throughout the day. The distance between them made it tough to get more than 3 or 4 raids in per cycle, but it made for a nice way to see different parts of the city.
In some ways, the downtown experience was better than Go Fest itself. Go Fest required some level of work, with trainers first trying to get Celebi and then attempting to find as many Unown, Torkoal, and shiny Pokemon as possible. Most of the weekend was humid and in the mid-80s (around 30 C). The non-fest day was more relaxed, yielding the opportunity to casually explore a city with friends both old & new.
Go Fest 2018 was a massive success, especially compared to 2017. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and very few players left disappointed. The coinciding local event was good enough that it might be worth going back for on its own, and there is something truly amazing about seeing thousands of Pokemon GO players all over the city. A great job to Niantic; we’re already looking forward to next year.