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Pokémon Go Fest’s problems stemmed from too much cell traffic, Niantic CEO says

All that data in one place didn’t bode well

pokemon go fest stage Allegra Frank/Polygon

Saturday’s catastrophic Pokémon Go Fest was plagued with issues from the start, and the reasons for them aren’t surprising. Niantic CEO John Hanke explained in a blog post that the game’s technical issues were primarily the result of congested mobile networks, an inevitability when thousands of people are gobbling up data in one place.

“A more protracted problem was caused by oversaturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers,” Hanke explained. “This caused many attendees to be unable to access Pokémon GO or other Internet services. Network congestion also led to a login issue which affected some users able [sic] to access the Internet.”

Niantic spent the day behind the scenes, working to reconfigure its servers to address both this and Pokémon Go client crashes. It took most of the day to work out, leading to full refunds and an early end time.

It was the internet connectivity issue that the developer had the most trouble tackling. With partners like Sprint on board to help pump out extra network coverage, it sounds like Niantic expected its needs to be covered. But it seems that none of the organizers could properly anticipate the extent to which attendees would be hogging all that data.

“We provided detailed estimates on attendance and required data throughput per user to our event partner who worked with the major carriers to allow them to plan for adequate coverage,” wrote Hanke. “Some carriers deployed Cellular on Wheels (COWs) to extend their capacity. In other cases the providers deemed them unnecessary based on other infrastructure already in place at the site.”

Sprint was one of those carriers, and Niantic said the carrier “held up well.” Verizon told Business Insider this week that it was not to blame for Pokémon Go users who experienced issues on its network, however.

“Even when attendees were experiencing issues accessing the game itself, other applications like YouTube worked just fine — which indicated the issues were outside of Verizon's control, like an issue with the game's server itself,” a Verizon spokesperson said.

Hanke didn’t shy away from that, but he was quick to emphasize the rest of the weekend’s successes. Attendees ended up catching more than 7.7 million Pokémon, he wrote, with 440,000 of them being the new legendary types. He also had some memorable personal interactions with fans who wanted to both thank him and admonish him for the day’s events.

“It was an amazing sight to behold and is a testament to the love of the game and to the bonds these Trainers share with one another,” Hanke wrote of his Pokémon Go Fest experience. Perhaps that’s not a sentiment everyone in attendance shared, but at least there was some good to be had at the Chicago-based event.

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