Pokemon GO Fest 2020
As I load up Pokemon GO for the first time since Team Rocket was added to the game, I’m greeted by several gifts from Niantic to help me celebrate Pokemon GO Fest 2020. The items they included in my in-game celebratory package were 100 ultra balls, 20 Incense and 10 Super Incubators, which is over a $28 value. Considering the event only cost $15 for Pokemon GO fans to attend, this is a great value. While the package includes plenty of goodies, it ensured that I was surrounded by Pokemon that I couldn’t catch without purchasing additional balls. Professor Willow quickly greeted me in-game to announce the GO Fest daily challenges and explained the Team GO Rocket confetti falling around my in-game avatar. Before going on my Pokemon GO journey, the last pop-up was a golden medal showing that I’ve finally been to a GO Fest.
GO Fest 2020: Grab Your Facemask and External Battery
Exploring the world through Pokemon GO this year involved social distancing, but it also featured flying in-game confetti that represented a rotating habitat and a Team Rocket invasion. The colour coded rotating habitats ensured a variety of Pokemon types every hour, but didn’t necessarily promise a variety of these types. These biomes did very little to mimic the custom areas created in previous GO Fest events, but the water biome fittingly had mostly water Pokemon, the fire biome mostly had fire Pokemon, etc. Many of the Pokemon that showed up were the same and at one point, I saw five Slakoth around one stop. One of the key pillars of Pokemon GO (socializing) may have changed this year, but the Pokemon GO community has never felt more connected.
Fans who didn’t play much of Pokemon GO when it initially released back in 2016 were likely eager to capture Venusaur, Charizard and Blastoise this year for GO Fest 2020. These starter evolutions had increased spawn rates, as did their stage one forms which had celebratory party hats. One of my favorite aspects of Pokemon GO Fest 2020 was to see the original trio represented with Pikachu visors on alongside their more powerful counterparts. Blastoise was one of my best catches during the event, but seeing Squirtly, Bulbasaur and Charmander wearing Pikachu visors was also a treat. Seeing these original starters scattered around my neighborhood and city areas reminded me of the first wave of Pokemon released to Pokemon GO and how much more popular the game felt back then. Despite being more of a cultural phenomenon back in 2016, over a million tickets were sold for the first ever all-digital Pokemon GO Fest. Social distancing prevented these people from congregating together this year, but the fact that GO Fest 2020 was digital made the number of players who could sign up limitless.
GO Fest 2020 Is Like a Combination of Several Events
Shiny spawns blew up on day one of Pokemon GO Fest, rewarding me and many others with our first shiny Pokemon in Pokemon GO. The number of Unknown spawning was also increased for day one, rewarding many people with shiny Unknown, an extremely coveted Pokemon across all titles in the franchise. Sadly, I was not one of the new Unknown owners, but I did catch several Unknown and some shinies. My personal favorite Shiny that I attained during GO Fest 2020 was an Alolan Grimer that I evolved to become a luminous Muk who I then powered up to be one of my best Pokemon. The increased drop rate of Stardust also made leveling these new Pokemon into pocket monsters capable of holding a Gym for a few days. While I wasn’t able to evolve all of my Shinnies, the necessary candy can be collected year-round, so I felt no obligation to specifically evolve the Pokemon I collected over GO Fest weekend. Fan favorite Pokemon Rotom was finally added to Pokemon GO with GO Fest 2020, but only one of Rotom’s forms has been represented thus far.
Team Rocket invaded Pokemon GO Fest 2020 on day two, ensuring their presence was known among the Pokemon GO community. Alongside the Team Rocket invasion was an increased spawn rate for the sea otter Pokemon, Buizel. I fittingly found the most Buizel I saw during GO Fest 2020 at a local water park. Although day one made raid battles more frequent, day two of GO Fest 2020 spawned several legendary Pokemon at raids all over the city. Day one of the first global GO Fest didn’t feel very legendary but nobody could say that about day two. After a rough but shiny start, Pokemon GO Fest 2020 really kicked off on day two. After two days of GO Fest 2020, I had over 60 new Pokemon, most of which came from catching them in the wild or through wifi. Sadly, a large majority of my hatched Pokemon utilizing the Super Incubators were Pokemon that I already had such as Eevee, Venipede and Dwebble. As day two came to a close, there were in-game fireworks to commemorate the end of the first ever global GO Fest at 8 P.M. PST, a time I will remember for a while and a fitting cap to a digital showcase in 2020.
The Virtual Team Lounges didn’t really do much to stand out separately from the Pokemon GO Reddit community, Pokemon GO dedicated Discord channels and other ways fans of the mobile AR game congregate online. When attending a Pokemon GO Fest in the past, these team lounges were physical places themed around each of the in-game teams: Mystic, Valor and Instinct. While the Virtual Team Lounges were themed around these teams, it didn’t fully replicate the experience of being there in person. While the game has been changed in many ways to accommodate a world in the midst of a pandemic, it felt impossible to get the amount of Pokeballs I needed to capture all of the Pokemon I had access to with so much incense. The incense allowed for playing remotely through Wifi, but the gameplay required spamming Pokestops and Gyms or buying Pokeballs to keep celebrating GO Fest. While visiting Pokestops and Gyms still rewarded XP and a few goodies, I felt like they should have rewarded more Pokeballs, Great Balls, etc. than usual.
The First Digital GO Fest Broke Records but Not New Ground
Pokemon GO Fest didn’t feel like a festival as much as it felt like an event that included previous event content, as well as some new ideas. While all of these ideas together form a fun and unique experience, Pokemon GO Fest 2020 lacked the content I expected from the first global GO Fest. I was expecting one big thing for everyone who attends to access, since GO Fest 2020 is the first global GO Fest. I feel like a new generation of Pokemon should have been added to the game that day as early access for GO Fest attendees, or Niantic could have rewarded attendees with a Mew egg to hatch in one of the Super Incubators. GO Fest 2020 was like the original GO Fest in that it had a lot of great ideas but the execution just fell a little short. Many people took to social media over the weekend to criticize Niantic’s game from a technical level, but other than some reception issues, I encountered no problems while celebrating GO Fest 2020. Pokemon GO is still a lot of fun despite the social limitations caused by social distancing, but Niantic will continue to face an uphill battle until a vaccine, cure or foolproof treatment to COVID-19 is found. I feel like something has to be done about spreading the area of Pokestops and Gyms so that people can properly keep social distance while trying to receive new loot or battle a Gym leader. Niantic is in an awkward position in 2020 having games that encourage exploration and socializing and they can’t specifically encourage people to go out and explore for legal reasons, but it’s integral to the game design. Fans of the AR mobile game are aware of many warnings in the past such as asking if you’re the passenger of a vehicle and stating that you shouldn’t trespass and now, fittingly, the Niantic game also has social distancing warnings as well. Although Niantic is breaking ground with remote raids and other features that allow people to stay socially distant, a lot more work needs to be done if COVID-19 lasts much longer. Pokemon GO Fest was a fun event with great value for the ticket price, but it didn’t do anything big to shake things up.
***GO Fest code provided by developer***