Pokemon Go Fest London brings together mobile players from around the world
I have always played Pokemon Go casually. I log in each day, catch my nearby Pokemon, spin stops as I travel around. It's always been a part of my life, and I have always played - since Day 1. A little over a year ago, I started becoming a more hardcore Pokemon Go player. I suddenly knew about players in my town, about the community feel of it all, and dived head-first into it. I have successfully made Pokemon Go my entire personality. Then, Pokemon Go announced there would be a Go Fest in London - something that's not happened before! And I bought tickets! And then they gave me a ticket too! With Raid Hour on Wednesday, a Go Fest London press day and pre-meet-up on Thursday, and then the fest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I got to spend basically an entire week playing Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go Fest 2023
Logistically, Pokemon Go Fest 2023 took place in a lesser-known park in London; Brockwell. This massive park has very few PokeStops when you look in it during the day. However, during your ticket time, the entire park lights up with stops, gyms, and tons of Pokemon. These four sections were divided up to feature different Pokemon; a frosty area featuring Mr. Mime, Snorlax, Chubchoo, Bergmite and such, a Volcano area featuring an Aerodactyle with a satchel, Jynx, Charmander and more, a Fairy Garden area featuring Spritzee, Petilil, Pumpkaboo and more, and a Dark Jungle area that featured Deino, Lucario, Nosepass and more. There were also some fun Unowns dotted about, Sigilyph in England, and a special Pikachu wearing a crown.
These sections had different confetti falling from the sky in the game, as well as different decorations on the PokeStops on the map. In real life, there were giant signs, massive displays, and fun things to do in each area. This sort of overlay with the real world, used in this ticketing system, was very interesting to see in real life. It felt like being a part of something special - something limited that would all disappear again. Along with the various sections, there were a bunch of quests, which ended up giving Carblink, Meteorites to use on Rayquaza, and Diancie, who can then be Mega evolved.
These special features and Pokemon are due to be around for Go Fest Global, but attending Go Fest in London was a truly amazing experience. There were so many people clearly playing Pokemon Go while walking around the park. Many of them dressed up in their own Pokemon Gear, celebrating catching Shinies or trying to find a regional to trade.
This community aspect is something that Pokemon seems to have done perfectly. As Pokemon Go is a game that is meant to get people out and about, having them walk and explore the world together seems to be a big part of it. Everyone was welcoming, helpful, and just happy to be around other people - and that's what Go Fest seemed to be all about. It's a massive collection of people, hardcore and casual, who are all excited to play this game together.
Pokemon Go feels like such a family-friendly event - we went with our children on the first day, where we all caught Pokemon, explored, and took tons of pictures at all of the photo areas. Niantic did a great job of setting up different photo points in each area, with the coolest probably being in the Winter zone, where you could go through a mirror room and see lights at the end. We got to meet Pikachu, take a picture with a giant Snorlax, and take some AR photos of our Pokemon in front of places like the volcano world. It all just felt well set up, though it is worth mentioning that new photo points seemed to be added as the days went on.
When it came to logistics, Go Fest London had a great variety of food trucks, especially for an event held in England where you might only see a fish and chips truck and a burger truck. There were plenty of toilets and even a bus that had Pokemon cartoons running all day, for kids to take a seat on a bean bag and relax for a bit. Information tents and family tents were clearly labelled and had helpful staff. Other tents that you could visit told you about the Community Ambassador program, Wayfarer, or Niantic as a whole. There was a merch area where you could purchase t-shirts, plushies and accessories, though nothing was colourful enough to attract my attention and wallet. There was just a lot going on.
On the second day of Go Fest London, there was a lot of rain. Like, tons of rain. Too much to really play around in. Thankfully, the areas each had a massive tent to stand under, with people going between them when the rain let up. Quests that were not completed, on any day of the Fest, had been changed for players to be achievable outside of the event, so not going to every section didn't hurt too much. Obviously, Niantic cannot actually change the weather, but I do wish there were more covered areas, considering this is England and it rains a lot. The atmosphere in the rain was really high though, with everyone still excited and happy to go around and collect Pokemon. Maybe next year, there will be a merch tent with Phone Umbrellas and Ponchos!
City Experience and Add-Ons
There are add-ons to the Go Fest London ticket. One of the add-ons allowed you to have 1/4th hatch distance on your eggs, which makes sense as you are walking around this giant park for hours, though you will need a bunch of incubators to make the most of this. It also meant you'd receive more 10km eggs from stops. Another add-on gave you more daily Raid Passes - too many passes to really use in one day, so you'll have plenty. It also gives you more candy per raid and more XP. We didn't really use this add-on the most, especially as the raids in the park were far from each other. There were no Rayquaza raids in the park, instead being only outside of it, which many people did not quite understand or like.
The last add-on, which was really worth the money, is the City Experience. You see when you purchased a day pass to Go Fest London, you got either a morning or evening time, with the rest of the day (9 am to 7 pm) giving you increased special spawns and Shinies. The Shiny rate was very good, and the City Experience gave you an entire day of that special spawn and increased rate. The City Experience was meant to encourage players to explore London, go into Raids, and collect more Shinies! The City Experience also worked further than London, almost making it to Reading, meaning that if you don't live right in London, you could still go home and enjoy it. This experience is one that I would very much purchase again, especially as I got most of my 75 shinies during the experience day.
Whether you are a casual player, a Pokemon fan or a hardcore player, Go Fest London felt like a giant family gathering, a community, and was full of fun activities. There were battlegrounds to face off against each other, key chains so you could represent your team, and so many players willing to give advice. You could even meet some of your favourite Pokemon Go streamers - it was just an over-the-top, fun experience. I feel like this sort of community aspect isn't something that we often see in the mobile gaming space. Having an event that celebrates a mobile game so fantastically and the use of the physical location of players, transforming their gameplay, is truly amazing. I do hope more games follow this path.