During the recent Barcelona City Safari event, we had the opportunity to attend a press debrief with Niantic employees, with the aim of informing the press about the current state of live events, but also about future of Safari Zones, the new City Safari format, and fabled GO Fest events.
Philip Marz: City Safari is a success!
The debrief kicked off with a presentation by Marz, outlining the current state of Niantic’s live events. The underlying theme was “success”, as both Niantic and the host region’s results have shown a massive economic impact. Safari Zone Seville’s economic impact, for example, was 22 million euro, estimated across all channels, and that includes spending in restaurants, lodging, public transportation and more.
A reasonable follow up question from us was if Safari Zones will continue, or will City Safari’s replace them all together. Mr. Marz gave a pretty straightforward answer: Niantic is constantly experimenting with new event concepts, and Safari Zone type of event is currently on pause. They are not cancelled, but the focus is on City Safari-type of event right now.
Philip continued to explain why they are prioritising City Safari events:
- City Safari’s allow lighter footprint event that still has the same enticing in-game bonuses that draws players to travel to a location, but without the whole logistical nightmare that is GO Fest / Safari Zone
- The economic impact of City Safari’s is massive, with more than 50% of the participating Trainers being outside of the region where the event is taking place
He also added that it is a much easier to pick locations for City Safaris, and gave an example of why Barcelona was picked (Lena gave much more details later on):
- Barcelona is a perfect location because it is worth a visit due to its cultural history, many many landmarks, easy to reach from all over Europe, and other international destinations
- Barcelona’s water front location makes it definitely a special place to visit, and a perfect opportunity to extend your stay, even post the in-game event. This was not the case for some of the cities that were picked for Safari Zones, as the limiting factor there is the on-site public infrastructure.
Philip finished with sharing that the Barcelona City Safari event is sold out, which is an amazing success given that this is the first in the series of City Safari events. Up to 20 000 tickets have been sold (unique individual tickets)!
Lena Cillis: Picking City Safari locations
Lena’s presentation was very structured, and focused on Barcelona as an example of a successful City Safari venue:
- We want to make sure that the people traveling all over the world to Barcelona have a chance to experience the entire city, why just coral them into one location if they can experience the entire city
- In-game bonuses make it well worth the trip, especially if you extend your stay for a couple of days, especially if you consider that the list of Pokémon is catered to Barcelona, featuring Skiddo, Gible, and Relicanth.
- Eevee with Safari Hat is a fun collectible that was integrated to the journey throughout the city, with the goal of making them relatively difficult to get unless you explore the entire city. Visiting Eevee Explorer PokéStops makes it possible to get Safari Hat Eeevee, but you have to work for it!
We also asked Lena about the criteria for a city to be picked as a City Safari venue, and she was very straightforward about the criteria:
- Player activity is one of the key factors, and that the city is accessible to international travelers. A strong local community is a must!
- We want a mix of tourism, high player count and easy access both for local and international travellers
- Featured PokéStops were picked in collaboration with local community and travel guidance, the idea is to make sure that everyone participating sees the entire city.
- The PokéStops feature varied locations across Barcelona, which should work for both locals and incoming Trainers
Post-presentation Questions and Answers
After Lena and Phillip shared their presentations, we had a chunky 30 minutes of questions and answers. We highlighted some of the most interesting questions that were answered during that time:
- Will City Safari’s replace GO Fest events?
- No, there is already something planned for 2024. IRL events will always be at the core of Niantic, and one of the core success drivers for the community. There are many reasons, in-game balance is one of them, and making a too dense event calendar makes every event less exciting.
- Will Safari Zones be retired?
- Safari Zones are being placed on hold for the time being, City Safari is the new format that is not a GO Fest-type event
- Niantic is aiming to be very liberal with adding and removing event formats, as this is an ever shifting goal in service of local communities
- City Safari is designed to be held at a bigger cadence than Safari Zones, especially as there is very little physical buildup required. There will be more of these coming to Europe at a later date, but not just to Europe – see a recent Pokémon GO City Safari 2024: Tainan, Taiwan announcement.
- Are there any partnerships planned with local transportation companies?
- Yes and no, it depends on the event, there is always something that we can do, but the lead times for those deals is insane and they sometimes work out, but sometimes they do not.
- The main tool being used to make a Pokémon GO a forever game has been PvP, is that something we can expect in the coming days?
- The strongest game loop we have is called “catch and collect”, but there are other game loops that can be used for this purpose, and one of those is PvP, battle events, and tournaments.
- PvP is not the only angle we are supporting, and we want to support any type of game play that brings people together, be it Raids, PvP, or something else. Our goal is always to get people outside, rather than to keep them inside.
- Are there any updates coming to the base game?
- There are still things coming this year, and there is a very strong roadmap for 2024. No concrete features we want to share at this moment.