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Pokemon Go Fest hit by glitches, Niantic to hand out refunds

In an echo of the game's troubled debut, network outages hamstring a first-of-its-kind event in Chicago meant to bring players together in an urban park.

The Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago is having a bad day.
Niantic Labs

It may be called Pokemon Go, but the headline-grabbing mobile game seems to have trouble getting going.

The pop culture phenomenon, which uses augmented reality to let you chase cartoon monsters in the real world, saw its July 2016 debut marred by overloaded servers and other technical issues. The problems kept people out of the game and caused developer Niantic Labs to pause the rollout while its technicians fiddled under the hood.

Now it's deja vu all over again as similar woes have befallen Saturday's Pokemon Go Fest, a first-of-its-kind ticketed event in Chicago that brings players together in an urban park to pursue colorful Pokemon creatures.

On Saturday morning, a number of attendees took to Twitter to complain that they couldn't access the mobile app. Other ticket holders bemoaned long lines outside Chicago's Grant Park, which they said kept them waiting long after the event had kicked off and caused them to miss significant goings-on.

Then later, when Niantic CEO John Hanke took to the event's stage to apologize and provide info, he was greeted with boos and chants of "We can't play." And still later, an official livestream of the event with game footage and cheery commentators went into placeholder mode, with little more than a title card to hold (or try to hold) viewer interest.

At a little after noon PT, the stream reappeared to show a Niantic executive announcing that attendees, some of whom had reportedly traveled from faraway lands to be there, would have their ticket price refunded and receive $100 worth of Pokecoins, the app's in-game currency.

The issues, he said, had to do with spotty cellular connections, some bugs that could cause the game to crash and problems with authenticating players at log on.

As of this writing, the title card was back, but Niantic was reportedly continuing on with the event in the hope that things would get straightened out.

The company didn't respond to a request for comment.

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