Imagine it is around 30 degrees outside with the most beautiful sunshine and a friend asks you if you would like to stroll through the city with him for hours. You hesitate, you are undecided about the weather to go out. Hardly outside, you have a light, cool breeze around your nose. You go to the park and there is a lot of activity in front of you, many others had the same idea as you and run across the meadow with their cell phones to explore the area. On June 30th and July 1st in Dortmund in the Westfalenpark, sun-worshiping Pokémon were hidden behind trees, bushes and between brightly blooming rose beds, waiting to get into the hard-working trainers’ Pokéballs. As a special catch, Niantic provided the Pokémon Corasonn and Icognito with the letters DORTMUN for everyone.
When we arrive with an unscheduled delay in the Westfalenpark, around 290 kilometers away from Dortmund, the atmosphere is relaxed. Just how much Pokémon Go relies on community play could be seen up close a few days ago. In addition to frequently looking at the cell phone, it was noticeable that almost none of the participants played for themselves, but ran through the park in pairs or in larger groups and that all age groups were represented from 1 to 99. Many families took the opportunity to go on a trip together and an elderly lady slowly meandered through the stream of visitors with her scooter and a smartphone attached to the handlebar with a mobile phone holder. Many wore clothing or accessories inspired by the three teams in the game,
On this weekend, Niantic organized the Pokémon Go Safari Zone in cooperation with the city of Dortmund, in which many rare Pokémon appeared in the 70 hectare Westfalenpark and in the entire Dortmund city area. According to Niantic, players caught 28.6 million of the creatures on both days. More than 170,000 players from all over the world traveled to the Ruhr area city and went in search of a good catch in the streets of the metropolis.
The event marked the start of the Pokémon Go Summer Tour, where similar events will take place in two other locations. The Pokémon Go Fest 2018: A Walk in the Park in Chicago is on the program for the coming weekend (July 14th and 15th) and a safari zone in Yokosuka, Japan is planned for the period from August 29th to September 2nd.
The team lounges provided shade in summery Dortmund.
Anyone who arrived in Dortmund on Saturday and started the app got an impression of the game’s active community. The lure modules at the numerous Pokéstops in the city burned brightly for several hours and the colors of the arenas changed every second. After some initial and significant server problems from Niantic at the beginning of the event, which started at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, the technical department quickly worked on a solution. Later at noon, the networks of Vodafone, O2 and Telekom were largely stable. The players were informed of new progress via loudspeakers and kept up to date on Twitter.
When we were walking in the park, we had almost no technical problems, our networks remained stable and the app could be restarted without any problems. On these warm days, shady spots were in great demand, and none of the coaches stayed in the sun longer than they had to. And if they did, the organizer distributed Pikachu caps with ears – of course not without pointing out the upcoming Pokémon Let’s Go for the Switch.
We didn’t notice much of the concentrated mass of players, as the Westfalenpark extends over an enormous size and all rare Pokémon also appeared in the city area. A visit to the park was therefore not absolutely necessary to catch the rare creatures. The situation had also relaxed by the afternoon. There wasn’t much to see of the initial onslaught and the players spread more over the city area.
This saved us from long queues at one of the six entrances and we could throw ourselves into the fray without any problems. The players were always up to date via Whatsapp, Telegram and word of mouth. If a 100 icognito appeared at a certain point, everyone set off in this direction. Anyone who needed a break after a long walk or because of the summer temperatures could sit on beanbags under trees or in the lounges on benches in the respective team color and start talking. Current pop hits from the radio boomed from the loudspeakers and food and drink stands provided all visitors with a choice of cool drinks or wraps, sausages or kebabs.
Food was well taken care of on site.
In the park and in the city, Pikachu, Icognito, Magikarp, Larvitar, Wablu, Roselia, Corasonn or Aerodactyl spawned right next to each other and let the Pokéballs run smoothly. With many of them there was an increased chance of a dazzling variant, an additional incentive for a visit to Dortmund. Coaches who have not yet won the Pikachu gold medal could definitely improve this situation.
If you think that you can never find meeting points in the park with so many visitors, you are wrong. We managed to meet three Pokémon players from our city in Dortmund without missing out on each other. We spent the rest of the day hunting together. We ran back and forth, looked for missing icognito letters, took one or the other colorful Pokémon with us and collected a lot of experience points. After the exhausting and tiring walk in the heat, we ended the evening comfortably in a restaurant – of course in one with three Pokéstops in front of the door, where else?
The next morning there was no sign of tiredness among the coaches. Before we left in the early afternoon, we strolled through the city for around an hour and a half. This was filled with tons of coaches on Sunday morning. Here, too, the familiar picture from the previous day was shown with older, younger and entire families hoping for a good catch with their cell phones in hand. And do you remember the grandma with the electric car at the beginning of the text? In the city center, an elderly lady was also out and about in such a vehicle – with three smartphones. It’s called commitment. With one of them, she caught Pokémon for her grandson, who apparently couldn’t be there. That could be inferred, at least in passing, from a conversation with other PoGo enthusiasts. In general, many of the players were communicative, got into conversation with each other or formed small groups. Something related to Pokémon Go could be heard from every corner, whether it was screams of joy at trapped colorful Pokémon or general game-related conversations. And the shops that were open that day were happy about the increased turnover – based on the sometimes long queues.
The initial problems with the Safari Zone event brought back bad memories of the first Pokémon Go Fest, held in Chicago last year. There was so much trouble with the technology there that Niantic later provided $ 1.5 million in compensation for attendees. This is not to be expected due to the problems with the safari zone in Dortmund. As an excuse, Corasonn was to be found across Europe for two days last week. Thus, players who were not in Dortmund also benefited from it.
The players could spread out well over the large area of the Westfalenpark.
The network and the stability were among the most important things that Niantic learned from the problems of the Go Fest. Anne Beuttenmüller, Head of Marketing EMEA at Niantic, revealed this in an interview with SamaGame.de.
“Our very first concern was of course to keep the network stable,” she says. “We worked together with all three major network providers and installed a WLAN network. That was the top priority, together with security and the handling of large crowds.”
Here the company entered into a cooperation with an experienced agency that normally looks after the BVB games. Systems specially installed at the entrances ensured that visitors were recorded in order to know at all times how many people are on the premises.
Only several large German cities were considered as the venue for the Safari Zone event, a home game for three German employees in the local Niantic office. The company asked agencies to suggest different locations for an event. According to Beuttenmüller, the fact that the city was behind the concept spoke in favor of Dortmund. Right at the beginning, for example, there was an invitation from the mayor. The team felt that the city was open to the idea and welcomed it.
The Westfalenpark also had a lot to offer apart from the Pokémon.
The park was also a convincing location for the event. “It’s huge, it’s beautiful. It encourages people to move. There are great little details everywhere that you want to discover,” she says. “It was the right size, immediately won us over and offers great connections. It’s great to travel from all over Europe. And with the agency, we had the feeling that what we asked for was the best they did. ” The planning for the event took a year. Niantic visited the town and park several times during the preparations.
It is not to be expected that several events of this magnitude will take place in parallel. Due to the long planning phase, the organizational effort is too great. A one-time event in Europe each year is now apparently part of Niantic’s plans. However, for smaller events such as the Uniball shopping centers, which are aimed at 2,000 to 5,000 players, there is the option of having them take place in different locations at the same time.
In general, there were quite a few in-game events this year. The game happens in quick succession with short pauses in between. Niantic wants to keep this pace and give players so many incentives to play, she emphasizes. This is especially true in the summer when people go outside more. Which does not mean that the developers will reduce the frequency in autumn or winter.
Dortmund’s city center was also packed on Sunday morning.
The new gifts that Pokémon Go users are exchanging among each other will primarily benefit players in more rural regions. Trainers encourage others to support others in the less Pokéstops blessed areas and exchange friend codes with them. In any case, Niantic knows that these players have a hard time. “There are still a few improvements to be made that will definitely benefit these players,” she says. Optimizations and further developments can also be expected with the new social features.
As for these plans for the future, she did not answer. Some time ago, players had found clues in the game code that it would be possible to submit Pokéstops in the future. Beuttenmüller said nothing about this, nor about the PvP battles – “we are working on it” – or any official map that helps with raid coordination.
A tiresome topic in the game are the spoofers, who happily sit at home and teleport to arenas to kick other players out. For Niantic, according to Beuttenmüller, it’s a constant battle in which the developers are trying to keep the upper hand.
“We’re always working on it, it’s a game of cat and mouse,” she says. “Once you have implemented a system, there are people again who crack it and find other ways. The most important thing is that we stick with it and always make it difficult for them. But I think we will always have the problem somehow. We just have to be on stay top and don’t make it easy for them. “
On both days, players gathered for a group photo.
It is a technical challenge and the team is working hard to come up with new ideas for combating cheaters. In case you didn’t know: Spoofers can be reported to support here.
Until new Pokémon games appear in November with Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu, you will still have a few kilometers behind you in Pokémon Go. After a somewhat quiet start in 2016, Niantic seems to be slowly gaining momentum.