Hundreds of Kansas City area Pokémon Go players joined thousands from around the world on Saturday for a major festival at Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the virtual game. It did not go well.
Throughout the day, festival attendees repeatedly complained about issues that prevented them from catching Pokémon or even logging into the mobile game in the first place — frustrations that resulted in the booing of John Hanke, CEO of the game’s developer, Niantic. Those problems were magnified by hours-long lines to get into the park, the Chicago Tribune reported.
At about 1:30 p.m., Mike Quigley, Niantic chief marketing officer, announced that organizers would be refunding the original $20 ticket cost, as well as offering $100 of in-game credits.
“Obviously, today has not gone as planned,” Quigley said shortly after the announcement. “It has been a really unfortunate situation.”
Late in the day, Niantic tried to placate irritated players by announcing that everyone who scanned a code when they entered the park would automatically receive the Legendary Pokémon Lugia, a rare and powerful creature difficult to defeat in virtual battle and prized by enthusiasts.
Then, ditching a carefully choreographed reveal, the developer decided to just go ahead and release two Legendary Birds into the wild: Lugia and Articuno, Forbes reports.
Within a moment of that announcement, gyms within a two-mile radius lit up with special raids and people one again spilled out of their hotels to go out hunting.
Then came the announcement that two more Legendaries were on the way:
“Don’t worry, Team Instinct and Team Valor, the Legendary Pokémon Zapdos and Moltres will also make their way into the real world soon, so stay tuned for more information,” Niantic wrote in a blog post.
Some in attendance in Chicago had paid as much as $400 online for the tickets, which sold out within minutes of their June release. While no official attendance figures were available, organizers had planned for as many as 20,000 Pokemon players and “trainers” at the festival billed by Niantic as the first official anniversary event in the world.
John Haberkorn of Chicago, a member of the Official Pokemon Go 40 Club, an international online community of high-level players, said he started waiting in line for the opening of the festival at 6 a.m.
“The excitement has just been drastically minimized because of what we’ve experienced today,” Haberkorn told the Tribune.
Niantic says Pokémon Go has been downloaded 750 million times since it was launched. The augmented reality game that uses GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures was introduced in the United States in July 2016.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.