By Quentin H. / July 27th, 2022
The trickiest part of putting together a real-life Pokémon GO Fest is being able to make sure that players of all skill and player levels have something that they will enjoy while they are there. If you gear the event up towards the top-tier, player level 40-plus players only, then people who only play casually or who are newer to the game will have little to do. Conversely, if you don’t provide content that is even moderately challenging, then the event can fizzle out for those who participate in organized weekly Discord raid groups and regularly battle in the Master League where there are no CP limits.
Instead of focusing on trying to appeal to one these disparate groups or the other, Niantic, Inc. smartly focused on what is the quarter-century-old mantra of the Pokémon franchise: “Gotta catch ’em all!”, and split up ticketholders into two different parts of Seattle that they would rotate between during the day: the park event experience inside of Seattle Center and the city event experience that ranged from downtown Seattle to almost the city limits. Players would spend 4.5 hours in one experience before rotating around to the other experience for another 4.5 hours. After one experience’s time window was up, all of those Pokémon would disappear out of the area, and players would have to go to the next experience to keep playing in the event.
The real star of the show was the park event experience that took place in the Seattle Center, as the parent company of Pokémon GO set up four different zones (Electric Garden, Cloud Sanctuary, The Oasis, and Dreamy Mindscape) that each had a different variety of Pokémon. If that wasn’t enough, every Pokemon within the park turned into one of several Unown letters for two minutes at the top of the hour.
Most intriguingly, Niantic, Inc. made it so that you can catch all three of the elemental monkeys (Panpour, Pansear, and Pansage) during the event despite them being ordinarily region locked to various parts of the world. They also released the shiny version of Panpour to the world during Pokemon GO Fest 2022: Seattle and brought back the Cowboy Hat Snorlax that first appeared in Pokémon GO Fest 2022: Berlin. These new and normally region-locked Pokémon ensured there was definitely something to catch for everyone if that trainer doesn’t already have a well-stamped passport. On top of that, there were a lot of raid battles in the area, and each of those gyms were constantly capped out at 18-20 people to battle in against Pokémon such as Darkrai.
Photos by author.
Niantic, Inc. took the real life-theming of the park experience seriously by creating four different zones set up throughout the park that houses the Space Needle. These four themed zones ranged from amazingly themed to well…mediocre. None of them was terrible, to be honest, but I didn’t love them all. The best one of them all was The Oasis. Ordinarily, the International Fountain is just a metal half-dome that shoots water out and rests at the bottom of a bowled depression. There are tropical plants that have Pinap Berries growing from them, a blue cobble-stone-sided stream going to the fountain, and a real crossable bridge that goes over said stream. If you look at the pictures below, you can see that Niantic really built it out into an oasis that would have fit right in with the Orange Islands (if you’re a fan of the Pokémon TV show) or the Alola region that has been the focus of this year’s Pokémon GO storyline and gameplay content. It was absolutely my favorite part of the entire event, and one that I kept visiting over and over again just to look at.
With Cloud Sanctuary. Niantic, Inc., made the baffling decision to turn an empty plaza area into a plot of land with…structures covered in cotton and streamer poles that all seemed to blend together into an unremarkable, same-color mass with bubbles being blown. Most disappointingly, as the day went on, some of the cotton strands actually started to come off the structures they were attached to and were floating around the area before being randomly stepped and dirtied up by people. The only real highlight of the area (besides the catchable Pokémon of course) was the giant inflatable Jigglypuff that you could take photos with. It wasn’t terrible, per se, but it definitely paled in comparison to The Oasis and was something of a miss by Niantic, Inc.
The other two areas were delightful as well, and they definitely managed to meld the surrounding original environment into the Pokémon world. When I stepped into the Electric Garden and the Dreamy Mindscape areas, I felt like either of these areas would fit perfectly into the larger-than-life designs and excesses of the cities that make up the different regions of the Pokémon world.
The most unexpected, and by far the coolest part of the entire themed experience was the battle and trade arena that took place in the soccer stadium. In an extremely clever nod to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield‘s gym battles, Niantic, Inc. had the Pokémon stadium music blaring from the moment you stepped into the halls of the real-life stadium and until you exited towards the pitch. The moment I realized what was happening, I stopped and drank it all in as I felt like a real Pokémon Trainer who was heading into a real Pokémon Stadium to do real Pokémon battles, and I will never forget how that moment felt.
On the pitch, Niantic, Inc. set up a Trading Post (with hay bales everywhere for people to sit on), and a Battle Ground that had people battling in the Great League (1500 CP or lower) against each other atop miniature battle plots of artificial turf. The battling was a single elimination format – if you won, you stayed, and if you lost, you left. Helpfully, there was a mentoring station next to the battle area where mentors would take a look at your caught Pokémon and movesets, and then work with you to build a strong team to go back into battle with. I actually battled, quickly lost, and took advantage of the mentor’s advice services. While I did not have the opportunity to battle a second time, I found the mentor’s advice to be extremely helpful to help me in the future as he recommended that I build a team around Empoleon. I was also quite impressed with the focus on the Great League for the event – using the midtier league ensured that players who didn’t focus on min-maxing Pokémon for the Master League could have a legitimate shot at doing well during the battles – especially after taking advantage of the mentoring services.
There were also other things people could do at Pokémon GO Fest 2022: Seattle. There were photo ops with AR cameras, gym leaders, giant Pikachu and Eevee characters, and a giant blow-up Snorlax. There was also trivia and prizes being handed out at the Team Lounges, which were scattered throughout the Seattle Center for people to enjoy. Surprisingly, the Valor Team Lounge was distanced from the rest of the event, and I found myself only wandering over there towards the very end of the park experience due to how far out of the way it was. There were also Notable Trainers from social media to meet that included players like ZoëTwoDots and Newtiteuf, and you could go learn how to play Pokémon Trading Card Game inside of the Seattle Center Armory. All of these little side activities really helped to flesh out the event beyond the mobile game itself and added a surprising amount of value to the park experience.
Photos by author.
All that said, there were some things that I did not like about the park experience. First and foremost, there was the absolutely abysmal shiny Pokémon rate that was clearly far below the rate of a monthly Community Day. I picked up two to three shiny Pokemon during the entire park experience, and I found it baffling that Niantic, Inc. would debut a new shiny Pokémon, Panpour, at Pokemon GO Fest 2022: Seattle while simultaneously making it almost impossible to find. I can understand not raising the shiny rate for ALL of the available Pokémon, but I would have liked to have walked away with at least the newest shiny Pokémon that was released for this event.
Other than that, I was disappointed with the merchandise available for purchase. With the exception of the exclusive, gray-colored Pokémon GO Fest t-shirt that was a mere reskinned version of the black shirt already available for purchase online, there was no merch unique to this event to buy as the rest was already available on the Pokémon Center online store. I honestly expected an exclusive event plush (Cowboy Hat Snorlax, anyone?) or a brand-new design event-exclusive t-shirt to buy and I was let down. While I did walk away with a gray event t-shirt and a couple Pokémon plushes, it didn’t prevent me from feeling unsatisfied with the offerings and I know that I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.
Photos by author.
Finally, the end raid for the park experience event was also a letdown. Instead of it being a brand-new Ultra Beast Pokémon that ties into the Ultra Wormholes that have featured prominently in this year’s story…it was Darkrai, which players had been already battling all throughout the park experience.
If you’ve read this far, you will notice that I’ve only talked about one of the two experiences so far at Pokémon GO Fest 2022: Seattle, and that is for good reason. Whereas the park experience had lots of things to do and see, the city experience was almost the complete opposite. Other than the new story quest to complete, the city experience had all of the Pokémon available in the park experience to find and capture and had gym battles to complete, and that was seriously it. I was hoping that it would drive players to congregate at various digital-only zones in downtown Seattle to do unique raids together or to capture unique Pokémon. Instead, players were scattered everywhere in the area, and I sometimes felt like I would go quite a while without seeing anyone else playing. The city experience really came off as just a way to help make sure that everyone wasn’t crowded together at the park experience for the whole event and to give some ‘added value’ to the paid ticket. I thought it really fell flat and just was more of the same day-to-day Pokémon GO experience other than the variety of Pokémon that were available to catch.
Overall, I loved Pokémon GO Fest 2022: Seattle. I felt like this event really brought players together to catch, battle, and trade Pokémon, and that Niantic, Inc. is to be commended for pulling off the first series of Pokémon GO Fest events since 2019. I was pleased to see how many strangers were talking and playing with each other, and how everyone seemed to want the France-exclusive Pokémon, Klefki. The park experience was absolutely worth the ticket price, and I really felt like that Niantic, Inc. wanted to celebrate their player base. The park experience was really the star of the event, and it was so much fun that it absolutely outweighed and pulled up the overall review score in lieu of how absolutely forgettable the city experience was.
I definitely want to attend another Pokémon GO Fest in the future, and I honestly think that if you play the mobile game, you should consider attending too. I cannot help but wonder how Niantic, Inc., will improve upon the event for 2023!
Did you attend Pokemon GO Fest 2022: Seattle? If so, what were your thoughts on it?
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