Exploring Pokemon Go's new City Safari format in Barcelona

Exploring Pokemon Go's new City Safari format in Barcelona

I was super excited to see what City Safari Barcelona would bring after deciding to go hardcore into Pokemon Go events this year following the excitement and fun that was Go Fest London. City Safari is a new Pokemon Go IRL event format that just started this year. This is actually the second edition of this event, giving players a chance to explore the city. It's sort of like the City Experience add-on for Go Fest, focused on getting players to explore the local area.

Pokemon near Sagrada Familia

Niantic has confirmed that recent Pokemon Go IRL events have a rate of over 50% of attending players travelling internationally to do so, so this format aims to highlight the local area, creating feature points that encourage players to explore a massive area of the city and see its best bits. There were two key points in Barcelona where there were pop-ups and Niantic staff, but otherwise, the event took place across the breadth of the city. There were absolutely tons of people across the city playing Pokemon Go, as the event sold out, with 20,000 tickets sold.

Between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm, players could find special stops on their map which featured an event-exclusive Eevee with Safari Hat and special Barcelona background. These stops were needed to complete the timed research so that you could get the Eevees. Each day, players were challenged to visit seven of the stops, which would result in gaining eight Eevees total.

During this time period, there were also special featured Pokemon, including Skiddo, which was previously not in the game, in both normal and shiny format. There was also Relicanth in shiny form, and Gible, along with a cluster of Unowns. The shiny Pokemon rates were improved, of course, and there were event add-ons that could give you more raid passes, more XP, and half your egg-hatching distance. On the first day of your official ticket, players also got a research quest which allowed them to either extend their incense time, extend their star piece time or extend their lucky egg time.

When it came to the event format itself, Pokemon Go City Safari is a great way to see an entire city. There isn’t really enough time in the day if you walk everywhere to get to do full tours or the like, but these stops guide you through a lot of the free things around the city that are on every list on the internet. We went to the Gothic Quarter, saw La Sagrada Familia, and made our way through a large number of historical areas.

We visited large parks, went right by the zoo, and found ourselves at the beach, taking in the Mediterranean Sea. As there isn’t a forced path, and there are plenty of stops, you can really explore in whatever way you want. This big focus is what Niantic was trying to do - create a new way to explore a city. This also gave us a bunch of great ideas for a future trip.

The majority of these special stops, as mentioned, were at very lovely locations, although we did end up at one stop that was in a park clearly under construction, so basically abandoned and could not get a taxi back. I am sure when Pokemon Go City Safari was set up, the park was perfectly useable, but these sorts of changes are a risk to such a massive undertaking.

The key points, both at the two Westfield shopping centres in Barcelona, were a good idea, as this was used as the starting point for various walks by communities, locals, and influencers who were flown in for the event. Having a sort of hub meeting point, with photography points, is always a good idea. At one of the shopping centers you could take a picture with Pikachu or Eevee and at another you could gain some codes and hats if you wanted. It felt very traditionally Pokemon, although there weren’t any sort of merch stands or the like.

I did miss the opportunity to purchase a specific Go City Safari shirt, hat or similar merch to show off that I had attended, but Pokemon Go is using this sort of city-wide event to improve tourism in these areas, as well as enable Niantic to set up Pokemon Go events that do not take as much time to set up as things like Go Fest, which means that we will definitely see more of these sorts of events popping up.

Niantic revealed to us, in a press briefing, that when it comes to picking the city for a Go City Safari, there are a lot of features that are taken into consideration: number of local active players, if the city can handle an event, ease of staying within the city, accessibility from the rest of the world, exploration of the city, and if it makes a good tourist point. We spoke with Philip Marz, Director, of Regional Marketing (EMEA) of Niantic, who inferred that in the future, trainers and community ambassadors might have a way of facilitating the submission of their own cities for consideration for a City Safari of their own.

I cannot wait to see what other cities pop up in this new format. 

Jupiter Hadley
Jupiter Hadley
Jupiter is a prolific indie game journalist with a focus on smaller indie gems. She covers thousands of game jams and indie games on her YouTube channel, letting every game have a moment in the spotlight. She runs indiegamejams.com, a calendar of all of the game jams going on in the world, and judges many jams and events. You can find her on Twitter as @Jupiter_Hadley