Impressions from GO Fest 2022 Berlin

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“GO Fest 2022 Berlin may very well be Niantic’s best Pokémon GO event to date”, John Hanke, Niantic CEO, told me in an informal chat on a very informal group dinner following this year’s GO Fest in Berlin, Germany’s capital city. Admittedly, this was after a couple of beers on my end, so don’t take this verbatim.

I must say I agree – this year’s GO Fest is definitely the best Niantic event I’ve ever been, and it’s miles ahead of any event they hosted in Germany so far. It may be luck, or it may be the aggregated experience in event planning, but this year’s GO Fest was almost without a flaw.

From start to finish, I’ve enjoyed playing at this year’s GO Fest, and my partner did the same, even tho it was her first day of Pokémon GO ever. From Level 1 to 20 in one day – what a day.

We’ll get back to that informal dinner in a bit, but let me talk about the event for a couple of paragraphs.

Britzer Garden

GO Fest 2022  Britzer Garden is a massive, and I want to emphasise this again, massive park. Moving through such a large area is a challenge on its own, but we enjoyed every moment inside. The weaving corridors through forest-y patches allowed us to move and walk at a good pace, while still avoiding getting massively sunburnt.

Some areas of the park are definitely choke points, with narrow stairs, or bridges that could be wider, but overall it is an excellent location, with enough shade, excellent cell coverage and adequate selection of food and beverage shops.

The prices in the park were fine as well, mostly in-line with Berlin’s regular pricing, but we had problems with most shops not accepting cards and being cash only. We were probably silly to walk in without cash, but Berlin’s easy going and card friendly environment spoiled us a bit.

Britzer Garden was definitely an excellent choice as a GO Fest venue, but it is not without issues.

Navigating the park is difficult, as there are so many twist roads, intersecting paths and bridges, bodies of water, small hills and patches of trees. All of this makes navigation hard, and the trying to get from point A to B in Britzer is… daunting.

GO Fest 2022

The official map didn’t help this at all, as the distances on it, compared to the real feel, are completely off, and it was incredibly easy to follow a wrong path, even with persistent cross-checks between Pokémon GO, the park map, and Google Maps.

We raised this feedback with Niantic, and we asked if it would be possible to mark PokéStops in-game with a some type of marker, that would help Trainers figure out where they were – both in terms of the event specific habitats, and in general in the event venue.

The semi-official answer was “this is definitiely something we can do”, and it remains to be seen if they’ll do it for a future event. We hope they do, as figuring out which habitat you’re standing in is next to impossible until you’re right in the middle of it.

Spawns and shinnies

In-game, the festivities were as good as one would expect. Spawns were wild throughout the park, and it felt incredibly rewarding to go fast, and then to slow down. Finally, a place and time to grind, and to grind as much as you want.

Spawn variety was fine, could have been a bit better, but, honestly, it’s never perfect and there’s always that 1 Pokémon you’d want to see at events like this. For me, it was good, for some it was somewhat bland, but your mileage may vary.

GO Fest 2022

When it comes to event duration and difficulty, we think Niantic did hit a sweetspot for most players, but we did feel quite tired after the event. The main quest line takes you throughout the entire park two times, at least, and you should probably complete the collection challenges alongside that.

If you failed to do that, as we did, that’s another round of walking. And there was a lot of walking at Britzer. Trainers that started playing at 11:00 a.m. were probably tired at 6:00 p.m.

Speaking of other things, shiny rates were… fine. I don’t know what to compare them with, but folks around us were pretty happy with the amount of shiny Pokémon they got.

There was a ton of complaints during the global GO Fest 2022, and it feels like Niantic recognised this and eased a bit with the restrictions. There were enough shinnies for everyone, and it felt great to catch them.

Raids were quite sparse to tell you the truth, but fortunately we didn’t care much about them, as there was so much to do elsewhere. At 6 p.m. there was a big group picture thing, and Niantic activated Tier 5 raids at all of the Gyms around one of the Team Lounges.

That felt quite good, and it gave us an opportunity to complete 5 Legendary raids back to back super quickly, and super easy. Great move, we just hope that the group picture is good as well.

GO Fest 2022

What we’ve heard from Niantic

After the event wrapped up, we left Britzer Garden to join other Content Creators and Niantic employees at a celebratory get together near the Spree river. Niantics looked tired as hell – two days of managing a massive live event does take a toll on one’s health and energy levels.

John Hanke, Niantic’s CEO, was there as well, and he actually sat down with us at the Content Creators table and asked for our feedback on all things GO.

You can’t imagine the shock on our faces when he came up to our table and asked if one of the seats was taken. The whole bloody lot of us froze and said yes. It was quite intense at first, to be honest, but he sat with us and talked for well over an hour.

I am not sure anymore which part of our conversation is under NDA, and which is not, but here are the general ideas we’ve heard from JH:

  • Niantic is focused on bringing us back outside, and it’s their core mission and vision. This cannot be understated, they care a lot about events and they are dead set on getting the player base out and about
  • They are aware of the issues that COVID caused. “During the pandemic, a lot of these smaller communities simply stopped playing, and interest fell with each month. We want to celebrate them, give them a reason to start playing again and to bring them back outside.”
  • The team is focused on a lot of different aspects of the game at the moment, and we should expect to see a number of “revamps” and “feature refreshes” throughout the coming months. He didn’t go into details, but this should not be surprising to anyone – after five years, some parts of the game need some shaking up for sure.
  • We gave JH a lot of feedback on the somewhat missing Pokémon GO end-game, and we heavily criticised that shiny hunting has become the dominant end-game for most players. He heard us, we made sure that happens, and it remains to be seen what they’re planning to do about it and when.
  • Campfire is an important project, and it’s a very exciting project for Niantic. We’ve met the team that is working on it, and it’s quite interesting to hear their plans for the future. Give it a go once it launches, show it to your friends, we may finally have an official tool for Raid organisation and community get togethers. The Campfire team is crazy excited about the launch and we wish them all the best. We’ll try to schedule an interview with them to learn more about this project in the coming days.
  • We didn’t talk about any of the recent layoffs or cancelled projects, there was no time (and no interest from my end, tbh) for that discussion. I think it’s pretty clear that everyone was affected by COVID, and let’s leave it at that.

I am not the one to usually praise big company CEO’s, nor the one to parrot someone else’s mission and vision, but JH left a strongly positive impression on me.

The man’s got spirit, he doesn’t sound, or act, as a corporate CEO, and if it wasn’t for the fact that we already know who he is, he could easily go by as a senior developer, or a director of product at Niantic.

That’s a good thing, he’s still very close to the products, and I loved that. He’s also quite keen on AR, but that’s something we’ll cover more on Metahub once we get our hands on Niantic’s new game, Peridot.

GO Fest 2022

Parting words

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at this year’s European GO Fest. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was Berlin, maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t especially eager to shiny hunt, or to do any particular hardcore activity.

I really don’t know. What I do know is that I finally enjoyed playing Pokémon GO outside, with fellow Trainers. 

Call up your old friends. Do a Raid, do some Field Research, if you’re able to, come to a liv event.

It feels good. You won’t regret it, trust me.

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