I’ve been playing Pokemon Go on and off since it’s launch. Last year my partner got into it and it became a lot of fun to have a Pokemon buddy to experience the game with. This means that we’ll go on little Pokemon walks, build PVP teams together, tackle raids and cheer each other on with level ups (she is currently way ahead) and shiny finds. This meant that Pokemon Go Fest 2020 was an easy decision for us, we like playing together and this was an excuse to have a fun weekend of catching and battling. In theory that is what we got but, in reality, the event left me feeling hollow and disappointed.
Let’s start with the price, at £14.99 each for the weekend we had high hopes for Go Fest. That’s a sizable amount of money for a 2-day event, so I expected to be impressed. I expected something over and above events like Community Days or other paid events like the one that led to Regigigas. And while I appreciate that Niantic has managed to make this event work virtually rather than needing players to go to a physical location, for me Pokemon Go Fest 2020 did little to differentiate itself from other free or premium events.
For Day 1 of Go Fest 2020 there were rolling spawns each hour throughout the day with global challenges to unlock bonus perks for everyone with a ticket. In principle, I like this. Working together with people around the world to get 5 million great throws makes you feel like part of a community and see how you stack up against your friend list brings it back to a personal level. However, none of these bonuses set the world on fire. It wasn’t like we were working together to unlock some awesome legendary or a rare shiny. Instead, it was to get triple experience for an hour or some bonus candy. And these are all things that are part of normal free events. Sure they aren’t normally all on one day and the gimmick of seeing different spawns every hour kept things fresh. However, it quickly lost its appeal and never got me excited to play the next hour.
Day 2 was a little different. I have to commend Niantic on keeping it all under wraps until the event launched. However, that was a double-edged blade. Since nobody knew anything and Niantic had promised something ‘different’ it meant that speculation was rampant. With rumours of Mega Pokemon making their debut, Mythic Pokemon like Arceus making an appearance and all kinds of other ideas that now seem crazy. This is because what we got was another Team Rocket event that did very little to differentiate itself from other free Team Rocket events.
This time there were new Pokemon to capture – Shadow Mewtwo and Victini. However, the way you got them wasn’t exciting. Players needed to follow a quest line that mainly involved beating Team Rocket Grunts, moving onto the Leaders and then besting Giovanni himself. However, all of them were extremely easy which meant that a win was a hollow victory. And while I understand that they wanted it to be accessible to inexperienced players, they went too far in the other direction. Rather than being a challenge, it was a grind. To get Shadow Mewtwo and Victini it was an encounter as part of the questline rather than beating Giovanni or Team Rocket. This takes away from the feeling of accomplishment and made it feel like Niantic were simply giving them away. And when it was all over there was a quest section that had nothing to do with the rest that felt like a late addition to give away some extra items. None of it felt earnt and left me feeling empty.
And that empty feeling is the best way to describe Pokemon Go Fest 2020. Day 1 tried to bring the community together but succeeded in doing what free events do but at an accelerated pace and Day 2 was another Team Rocket event with an excuse to give away Pokemon that felt like it was ‘justifying’ the price tag. Even getting shinies felt lacklustre. When you get three in a row they become less of a reward and more “Oh, here’s another.”. At no point did it feel like a festival.
So what happens from here? Will I stop playing Pokemon Go? No, I’ll still play it but it will make me think twice before spending money on another event. Niantic needs to work on how they hype up their events because if they pitch too high and underserve then you have a situation like the one above, and for £14.99 each that is quite an underserving. For me, if the ending of each event was made to feel a bit more special rather than the Professor giving you some text or getting some items before ending, then it would go a long way to making the event memorable. As it stands, Pokemon Go Fest 2020 only stands out as something I spent money on that left me feeling empty, and that isn’t good for anyone.
Thanks for reading. Oof that was a lot of negativity, if you want something more positive then check out my review of Mutant Year Zero or George’s article on Man of Medan.
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