The developers at Niantic were forced to implement more than their fair share of changes to Pokémon Go to keep the game going strong during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even as the world slowly returns to a sense of normalcy that hasn’t been seen since 2020, some of those updated elements have stuck around in different ways.
One such element that has seen the biggest continuation and evolution from its pre-pandemic state is global tie-in events that run alongside events held in person at various locations worldwide.
This concept, which originally started as the Global Catch Challenge in 2017 and expanded to the Global Challenge for Go Fest in 2018, allows Niantic to provide players worldwide with additional content even if they can’t attend an event.
“This is our way of ensuring that even if you can’t attend an in person event, there’s still something to do around the world,” Niantic director Michael Steranka said to Dot Esports. “We also want to continue evolving that and leaning into that because our intent is to lean heavily into real life events moving forward. But we want to make sure that for folks who can’t travel or, you know, don’t have an event taking place in their city, you’re not just tuning in from the sidelines, that you’re are able to feel like you’re participating in some way.”
This focus on the global community has been a natural progression of Niantic’s approach to events as the company returns part of its focus to promoting in-person gatherings again, which has always been at the core of Pokémon Go’s mission.
Those tie-in events for global players are also constantly evolving, as Niantic does not have a strict set of guidelines to decide what content can or can’t be included. It aligns with the company’s approach to all areas of its content, where it focuses more on adapting over time based on player reaction and feedback.
This approach is handled slightly differently than a new game feature, as the team wants to ensure they aren’t just best serving the people who attend the events but have to find a balance to ensure those people who do come out feel special.
To Niantic, attending an in-person Pokémon Go event needs to feel like “the highest echelon” of what the game offers, which will inherently lead to exclusivity. However, providing a fun experience with added content for the global audience is also a priority, it is just a tricky balance that the team is always re-evaluating.
Some ideas are set beforehand when deciding what content will be included in certain events. For example, for the Pokémon World Championships, Niantic is aware of how many players travel from around the globe to attend, so they want to make sure the offerings for a tie-in give everybody something worthwhile—hence regional exclusives like Bouffalant, Red Flower Flabébé, Sawk, and Throh all being available around the venue.
“We’re always trying to find new locations to bring our live events to and I hope that someday we bring one to a location that everybody around the world can attend a Pokémon Go event at some point in their lives,” Steranka said. “Because, yeah, I think if you talk to anybody who’s gone to any of our in person live events, they’ll all tell you that that’s the most special experience that they’ve ever had with the game. And I genuinely would love for all of our players to experience that at some point.”
While Steranka and the team weren’t quite ready to share details about what is coming for Pokémon Go beyond the approaching Go Fest 2022 Finale event on Aug. 27, you can expect to see global tie-ins continue to evolve for future events.