Niantic Executive Deepens Pokemon Go Fest 2021 Town Activations

Niantic won’t have a big, centralized party for Pokemon Go Fest 2021, but it does bring back a smaller-scale in-person experience through town activations. These real-world celebrations will take place in 22 cities across the United States, Europe and New Zealand. They will be held for one day only from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 17.

“These are actually going to be quite different,” said Michael Steranka, director of marketing for ‘Pokemon Go’ products. “If you’ve been to Chicago, Yokohama and Dortmund before, we’ve done big park acquisitions and constructions. Because of the pandemic and the like, we wanted to approach it in a different way. “

He said, “It’s definitely a much lighter touch. The intention is to create places that players can attend.

City activations will focus on real-world photo ops, but the event will be held in each city, meaning Niantic is investing money there. City activations are expected to attract players from surrounding areas, so the company is asking those interested to register for the event in order to avoid overcrowding. You can register here.

The cities concerned are as follows:
United States: San-Francisco; Denver; Atlanta; Chicago; Indianapolis; New York City; Seattle; Washington; Nashville, Tennessee; and Austin, Texas.

Europe: Linz, Austria; Dresden, Germany; Essen, Germany; Hamburg, Germany; Seville; Spain; Paris; Warsaw, Poland; Bristol, UK; Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Liverpool, UK; and London.

Asia Pacific: Auckland, New Zealand

Why did Niantic choose these specific US cities? Steranka said the organizers wanted to hold the events in venues that can accommodate different regions. They didn’t want to concentrate all of the city activations in one part of America. San Francisco was chosen for California for several reasons. “This is where our head office is based and it has a large population of players,” he said.

The other criterion was the openness and the will of the cities. “We have worked with local governments and worked to make sure these events are safe,” Steranka said. “The local authorities are fully on board. “

Regarding COVID-19 precautions, Steranka said Niantic is following the guidelines for each city and region. In the United States, they do not need proof of vaccination or COVID testing to participate. He stressed that the City Activations will have a “light touch” and that the events will be distributed, taking advantage of the sights and culture of the selected municipalities.

San Francisco is one of the cities that will have a Pokemon Go Fest 2021 city activation. (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)

In San Francisco, the playground crosses downtown. Steranka said it will stretch from Union Square to the Embarcadero. City activations are not a guided experience. They are freer and more focused on discovery as players explore the city by the bay and encounter moments of whimsy. Players will see actual exhibits such as a Charizard wing on the side of the building, Steranka said.

These screens are at the heart of the city’s activations and Niantic will staff them so they won’t be invaded or damaged when players take photos to share on social media. The art installations will not have a direct link to the daily questline. They are not there to stop traffic or cause danger. Additionally, Niantic is not introducing any temporary Pokestop. There won’t be any PvP tournaments in San Francisco, the product marketing director said, but “PvP fans will find powerful Pokémon appearing in the wild as part of the Pokemon Go festival.”

Players will not find any merchandising booth. Additionally, Steranka couldn’t confirm anything about Pokémon spawn rates for city activations. There will be no amenities provided by Niantic, such as bathrooms, food trucks or additional cell phone towers.

Pokemon Go Fest Exchange Paddles
Commercial paddles like these will be part of the Home Print Kit for Pokemon Go Fest 2021. (Gieson Cacho / Bay Area News Group)

So why go there? These city activations will attract other players from their respective regions and that’s in itself a feat. With so many players, it creates some interesting gameplay moments and a sense of community that has been lacking in recent months.

Seeing other players in their Pokemon gear with phones connected to external batteries creates a sense of belonging. This opens up other aspects of the game as well. One of the cool things is that this year’s home print kits will include blueprints for the commercial paddles that have been seen in previous Pokemon Go Fests. Players can carry these “search” and “ready to trade” signs and easily find a partner with the density of players. If you’re looking for that missing Unown to complete this collection or that shiny Legendary Pokémon that completes a set, you can find it at City Activations. Unfortunately, Pokemon Go Fest 2021 won’t have any additional special trades or such bonuses, but players can still trade to revive some of the non-shiny, non-legendary Pokemon they already own.

UPDATE: Niantic has announced that there will be six special exchanges each day from July 16 at 1:00 p.m. PDT to July 18 at 11:00 p.m. PDT. This makes city activations even more appealing because with so many people playing in the same area, there is a higher chance of meeting people. ready to trade you in for that shiny or regional variant you miss.

When it comes to amenities like food and bathrooms, Steranka said that one of the reasons events take place in downtown neighborhoods is because it’s a great way for players to discover the hidden gems of their backyard. “We want the trainers to explore different establishments,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to reinvigorate the community” and local businesses after going through the trials of the pandemic.

Pokemon Go Fest 2021 could be a boost for downtown restaurants and shops as players explore the area and research some of the art installations for photo ops. Interestingly, Steranka mentioned other freebies related to Pokemon Go Fest 2021, but he said, “We’re not able to share anything at this time.”

The idea is to have safe and distributed gameplay. Niantic didn’t want to confine players to a corner of San Francisco. He mentioned that during last year’s Go Fest, players walked an average of 10 miles and Niantic wants to keep the commute around that distance for these city activations. He said that with such a large playing space, Niantic does not anticipate the need for additional infrastructure.

“This is one of the advantages of having it downtown,” he said. With Grant Park in Chicago, it’s a different situation. The area doesn’t have a lot of connectivity and Niantic had to bring in a “cell on wheels to take care of the number of players in that space.” He said that with players exploring all of downtown San Francisco, the existing infrastructure can naturally handle the number of people.

With the event being so free and amorphous, Niantic is using registration to get a feel for how many people will be entering downtown areas, Steranka said. Registration is free, according to the Niantic blog post, and places for each city are limited on a first come, first served basis. But technically anyone can go to San Francisco and check out City Activation. If you live in San Francisco, you’ve got a head start because it’s in your city and you should be able to explore it. But if potential outside attendees can’t register, Niantic urges them not to attend.

This can be a risky proposition. The light touch of the event means cities could see huge crowds swarming San Francisco for the event or they could find the right critical mass. They could see hordes of “Pokemon Go” fans wearing their favorite character t-shirts and gear or it could be the summer of 2016 again, when giant masses of gamers first discovered the game. Then again, these city activations could have just the right amount of people at the right time as people start to emerge from the pandemic.

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