Last week’s Pokémon GO Fest was an unmitigated disaster, with angry fans booing John Hanke, CEO of developer Niantic, to voice their displeasure over the game they came to play being unplayable.
In a blog post, Hanke has attempted to explain just what the hell went wrong. Hanke wrote that “software and network problems” were responsible for Pokémon GO being unplayable for so many event attendees. This, he continued was despite event vendors, telecommunications companies, and Niantic’s IT team having worked hard to prevent such problems from occurring.
“Technical issues with our game software caused client crashes and interfered with gameplay for some users,” explained Hanke. “The gameplay issue was resolved with a server configuration change and the crashes were also addressed for many but not all users. A more protracted problem was caused by oversaturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers. This caused many attendees to be unable to access Pokémon GO or other Internet services. Network congestion also led to a login issue which affected some users able to access the Internet. This latency-related login issue was addressed with a second Niantic configuration change.”
The problems came despite some major carriers providing cellular on wheels units to boost their network capacity for attendees. Hanke wrote that this helped many players “to play normally,” but not all. He name-checked Spring as a carrier that did take this step and noted that its network was able to hold up despite immense strain thanks to the move.
Another carrier that did not deploy cellular on wheels coverage, however, pointed its finger back at Niantic. “This was not a Verizon issue,” a Verizon representative told Business Insider. Continuing, the rep said the fact that applications other than Pokémon GO were working just fine “indicated the issues were outside of Verizon’s control, like an issue with the game’s server itself.”
In any case, Niantic’s CEO said he and many members of his team were making the rounds to personally listen to player concerns and offer apologies. Niantic also offered ticket refunds and $100 in USD worth of PokéCoins to unhappy attendees who wanted them. The developer also plans to use the episode as a learning experience.
“Last Saturday was not a happy day for us,” admitted Hanke, “but we are committed to listening to that feedback, however harsh, to improve what we do so that we can continue to build experiences that bring together people, technology, and the real world in innovative ways.”