Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago

The importance of Community Management — A Pokémon Go Story

So you thought Pokémon Go was dead? Think again.

A few days ago, Pokémon Go hosted a big party to celebrate the anniversary of their precious game. And I must say, it looked pretty amazing. Watching the videos and looking at the pictures, you’d almost think it was a big festival. There was a big stage, a DJ, a big Pikachu, colourful lounges for every one of the three teams and thousands and thousands of people.

#PokémonGoFest Team Lounges for Valor, Mystic and Instinct

But the vibe wasn’t quite the same. For starters, the line to get into the park was HUGE. No problem, we see that at every big event. Wait for the Iphone 8 to launch, just an example. But it seems like Niantic only had 12 people at the check-in. 12 people scanning tickets of 20.000 people. It took almost 3 hours for those who traveled to Chicago’s Grant Park to get in.

The line to get into #PokémonGoFest

And that wasn’t even the biggest issue. Just an hour after launch, the servers started breaking down along with the internet connection. Yep. You just brought 20.000 people together to play a game which is not working at all.

Throughout the day Niantic people — even CEO John Hanke — came on stage to tell the audience they were doing everything in their power to solve the problems. But as this video shows, the crowd got pretty angry.

The crowd got pretty angry when Niantic people took the stage

This got me thinking. We had a few events like this last year as well. Together with some friends I launched the Facebook Page Pokémon Go België to bring together the Belgian Pokémon Go Community. We ended up hosting Pokémon Go Events ourselves, the biggest being our #PokémonZoo in the Zoo of Antwerp. The event brought 16.000 people together — at that time the biggest Pokémon Go Event in the world.

And we had the exact same problems as Niantic had on their Fest. 16.000 people in a Zoo that normally takes around 10.000 visitors a day, yeah, our lines were long as well. 16.000 people on the Belgian Network, so our game and connection crashed as well.

16000 people show up at the Antwerp Zoo to catch Pokémon

As you can imagine, we got some pretty bad reactions too. As soon as the connection returned, some trainers took to our Facebook page to express their dissatisfaction.

Three key differences between the Chicago Event and ours:

  • Money | Our event was free, Chicago trainers paid $20.
  • Responsibility | We have no connection to Niantic. We couldn’t fix the game and had no influence in earlier problems with the app. We were just a couple of friends with a crazy idea.
  • Community Management

Yes, the fact that the event was hosted by Niantic itself and that it cost $20 is a factor, but let’s talk about the last one.

As soon as we noticed the problems we thought we were screwed. We had anticipated to this event for a while, and were totally buzzin’ so many people showed up. We started thinking about a message we could spread. After a few ideas, we went with this:

Hey trainers! If this post reaches you, that’s a good sign, because we’re too strong for the different networks. It is very frustrating for us as well. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.
Thank you very much for coming and have fun!

Our message became “We broke the internet”.

The internet didn’t fail us. We just broke it. It was a positive reaction in the line of our style. And it worked. The vibe changed. We got a lot of heartwarming messages about how fun it was to see so many people together in one place, to be able to visit the Zoo for free, just to be there. The reactions under the angry posts on our page got a lot of positive comments as well. Our community fixed itself. We sat down, watching our community manage itself, in a very positive way. A weird but oh so satisfying feeling.

“We watched our community manage itself, in a very positive way.”

No, not because of that one post, but because of the way we had managed our community before. We were open, positive and honest. We were human. Our fans didn’t communicate with a page, no, they talked to people who knew them and understood them. Who wanted to help and inform them. Who wanted to make them laugh. A lot.

We asked our audience to curse at us for having to cancel an Event.

And then there’s Niantic. Who made an amazing game, and ended it there. As everybody knows, they had a lot of server-problems in the early days of the game. One thing stayed the same, there was zero communication. Why was the game laggy? No idea. Why did the servers crash? Who knows. Why didn’t they shut down or take over our page? I’m glad they didn’t.

This lead to two things: People turning to us for help and the hype taking an enormous dive after only 2 months. Pokémon Go was dead. Yes, they just hosted an event for 20.000 people, but we had 16.000 people in the small city of Antwerp. They were in Chicago, with a population of 2,7 mil. Just imagine how big the event could have been if the hype became a trend.

So yeah, Niantic. Maybe, just maybe, if you started talking to your users, explaining them what’s going on, you wouldn’t have been boo’d off stage. Have faith in your community, they will understand that you too are human and will make mistakes. Your community wants to like you, let them.