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Niantic CEO blames Pokemon Go Fest mess on mobile carriers

Many people at the event were unable to access Pokemon Go throughout the day due to network congestion, says John Hanke.

2017 Pokemon GO Fest Chicago

Niantic CEO John Hanke at Pokemon Go Fest in Grant Park in Chicago.

Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

The first Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago on Saturday was a hot mess -- like Charizard hot.

Who's to blame? Niantic CEO John Hanke said software problems prevented some players from being able to connect to the game, but the biggest issue was congested mobile networks.

Pokemon Go Fest was supposed to bring fans of the AR game together to pursue colorful Pokemon creatures. Instead, gamers at the ticketed event complained they couldn't access the mobile app and bemoaned long lines that caused them to miss significant goings-on. When Hanke went on stage during the event, he was greeted with boos and chants of "We can't play."

Hanke laid out what went wrong with the Chicago event in a lengthy blog post Tuesday. While a game software problem was "resolved" quickly, Hanke said many players were unable to access Pokemon Go or the internet throughout the day due to network congestion.

"A more protracted problem was caused by oversaturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers," wrote Hanke in the post. "This caused many attendees to be unable to access Pokemon GO or other Internet services."

Hanke said the major carriers were provided detailed estimates on attendance and required data. He added that some carriers also "deployed Cellular on Wheels (COWs) to extend their capacity." Apparently this still wasn't enough to support the crowd of Pokemon Go players.

Niantic offered to refund tickets to the event and gave all attendees $100 in Pokecoins, the app's in-game currency, and a Legendary Pokemon. Hanke said the company would use this as a learning experience for several more Pokemon Go events scheduled this summer. 

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