The Covid-19 pandemic and the measures governments have taken to slow its spread have brought major changes to our lives in 2020 and 2021. Work has moved from the office to our homes and online social interaction has become the only way to see friends. and family.
Businesses have also been hit hard in dealing with their customers’ new habits, and for some businesses, the pandemic has caused them to close their doors for good.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Niantic followed this unfortunate trend – with its game pokemon go specifically designed to encourage users to gather and roam the outside world. However, thanks to changes in the way Pokémon Go operates, particularly when it comes to live events, Niantic has managed to turn 2020 into the most financially successful year of all time, and its performance in 2021 is expected to be strong too.
But as restrictions are relaxed, what can we expect from its next Pokemon Go Johto Tour and the remainder of its 2022 schedule; Will we see a drop in the number of digital events or are face-to-face meetings a thing of the past?
During the Liverpool Safari Zone Last year, TechRadar had the chance to speak with Philip Mars (Pokémon Go Product Marketing Leader for EMEA) and Michael Steranka (Pokémon Go Global Product Marketing Director) to ask just that. Here’s what they told us.
Pokemon is best played live
From the start of the interview, the duo made it clear that Niantic plans to continue to hold events that require attendees to personally show up at a specific location in the real world. And not out of devotion to Niantic’s original vision for their games, but because players have repeatedly demonstrated that they want to explore different areas of the world.
To give you an idea of the popularity of their events, Steranka said that about 60% of live event attendees are willing to come from “outside the market” to participate. In other words, they are willing to travel for hours by car, train and plane to pick up the ‘mons’ from the event and meet up with other fans.
In pre-Covid times, Steranka explained that these events averaged an in-person attendance of around 20,000 people per day – on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday they take place.
Liverpool didn’t see as many entrants during the Covid-era Safari Zone, but over 10,000 ticketed players entered the game while in the Sefton Park area of the city that weekend – with a further 10,000 players overall entering the game across the entirety of the season. world. Liverpool city area.
Of those players with tickets, 89% were not from Liverpool.
Furthermore, of the other 20,000 people who purchased tickets in 2020 to come to Liverpool in person (but chose to participate digitally in 2021), only 50% of them were from the UK.
For Mars, the draw isn’t just the event’s special Pokémon – for the Liverpool Safari Zone, the Relicanth fish, typically unique to New Zealand, was found and caught – but to explore the real-world area.
As he says, “You’re not just playing Pokémon Go, you’re playing Pokémon Go in Liverpool at an event – and we want to convey that experience by blending the real and digital worlds.”
In practical terms, this means creating an event that feels special to the venue. For example, Liverpool docks, which previously held world heritage status, were the inspiration for Safari Zone’s aquatic Pokémon theme. Although canceled due to Covid, a City Explorer pass is also designed to encourage players to explore the streets of Liverpool and discover what it has to offer.
More generally in these events, Niantic sets up real-world stations in the event area that are represented in-game as PokeStops or Gyms. These stations offer free Wi-Fi, areas to sit and grab a bite to eat or recharge your phone.
By highlighting these points, players are encouraged to gather here and play together, fighting, fighting an invasion, or trading – you’ll even find event staff handing out signals so you can easily show the mobs what Pokémon you’re looking for.
Mars explained, “Seeing friends walking together with huge smiles on their faces, or seeing Trainers make new friendships and connections is the most positive confirmation that these [in-person] events are worth holding.”
That being said, those of you who have enjoyed digital access to events from afar shouldn’t worry about them disappearing soon.
It’s Pokemon Go Digivolution Time
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Niantic realized that its model for Pokémon Go would not work with increased restrictions.
“In March 2020, when this pandemic really started to show signs that it was going to affect the entire world and last longer than anyone thought,” said Michael Steranka, “we knew we needed to do some very fast pivots as a team. and adjust how players engage with the game.”
As players saw at the time, this meant that your friend Pokemon would deliver items and a new challenge to you every day, that game points of interest could be interacted with from further afield, and remote raid passes were introduced for players to interact with. by far.
Steranka went on to say, “At the time when these measures were introduced, we saw them as a temporary thing – they would eventually disappear so we could go back to what made Pokémon Go feel like a special outdoor exploration experience. .
“But what we’ve learned is that there are ways to continue to incorporate these elements as more permanent accessories that don’t take away our vision,” explains Sterenka. “You know, the pandemic has really changed the way people live their lives. We have to make sure that we are engaging our users in the way that best suits them and adapting our game as the world changes.”
As part of this adaptation, Steranka suggested that Niantic will continue to explore digital events saying, “We’ve heard players loud and clear, we definitely think these global experiences are here to stay.”
What that means is that players can look forward to events similar to the 2021 Global Pokémon Go Fest and the Kanto Tour. Case in point, Niantic is hosting a Johto Tour offering global gameplay options.
But as the world reopens, we can expect these events to become more hybrid, so Niantic can offer its players the “best of both worlds”.
Again, turning to the Johto Tour, Niantic announced that some European cities will be holding in-person celebrations, including Warsaw, Linz, London and Bristol, to name just a few.
As Philip Mars explained, “We truly believe that having a live in person experience is what makes [our events] Special.
“Players can stay at home and enjoy a similar gaming experience, but we want players from all over the world to be able to come together because we love to see this and we know that players love it too.”
So while Pokémon Go’s digital events aren’t going away anytime soon, you can expect to see a slew of in-person and hybrid events in the years to come. We echo Ninatic’s sentiments that you should only attend in person if you’re comfortable, but if you’re on the fence, we recommend that you go along.
It’s as incredible an experience as they say.