Pokemon Go Fest has become an annual tradition for Niantic and Pokemon fans, but this year’s event, which took place on July 25 and 26, faced some unique hurdles. With the COVID-19 pandemic still surging in many parts of the world, particularly throughout the US, Niantic had to reconfigure the event–traditionally held in-person at Chicago’s Grant Park and other live venues–into a digital experience that players could participate in without leaving home.
Considering how challenging it must have been to adjust a game so dependent upon being outside around these extenuating circumstances, Pokemon Go Fest 2020 turned out to be a solid alternative to a traditional live event. Niantic did a commendable job of translating the usual Go Fest activities into a digital experience, even if there were a few hitches along the way.
Day 1 of the event featured the most compelling new feature: virtual habitats. To simulate the feeling of wandering into a new environment, Niantic rotated through different “habitats” every hour. Each of these brought out certain kinds of Pokemon; Grass types, for instance, appeared more frequently when the grass habitat was active, while Dragon types were more common in the battle habitat. This added a nice element of surprise, and it was fun to check in throughout the day and see what Pokemon were popping up.