Pokémon GO Fest 2020 Review: Paid Event, Or Raid Day With Confetti?

GO Fest 2020 is over, and the Pokémon GO community is torn on the event. Some are happy with what Niantic did with their first-ever remote-only, global GO Fest, while others are… well, furious. The complaints got #GOFest2020 trending on social media, as server issues essentially made the game unplayable early Saturday morning on the first day. It wasn't all bad, though, and the sheer amount of new content added to the game was a surprise for even the most dedicated players. GO Fest 2020 ran for ten hours on both Saturday and Sunday, and I made the humble sacrifice for Bleeding Cool and played the entire event from beginning to end. After weeks of hype, leaks, and build-up… how did it all ultimately stack up?

Victini promo art. Credit: Niantic.
Victini promo art. Credit: Niantic.

Server Issues

It happened. It was a major problem.

On Saturday, when the "Friendship" biome began, players were tasked to send their Pokémon GO friends as many gifts as possible. When the global goal was hit, gifts opened would include Rare Candy for the remainder of the hour. With the amount of gifts trainers were able to open expanded to 200 for the first day, this was a huge bonus. However, with millions of players scrambling to send gifts as soon as the biome started, the game immediately crashed. For most of the hour, the friends list and remote raid invites were completely inaccessible. By the end of the hour, the goal was reached with mere minutes left, cutting down drastically on how many gifts could be opened. A larger problem, though, is that the overloaded servers also impacted Pokémon spawns and logging into the game at all, leading to almost an hour of lost gameplay.

Niantic promised a make-up for this on Twitter, where they were being absolutely skewered. The panic was understandable. Beyond the ticket cost, which was very affordable considering the content being offered, trainers had prepared for this for some time. A crash that early into the day did not bode well, and it could be understood if, at that time, as the screen rained biome-themed confetti over Pokémon that were unclickable, if this event was really just a Raid Day with confetti.

However, once servers were back to normal about an hour and fifteen minutes after the problems started, the rest of the event continued with no hiccup. When the Friendship biome returned later in the day, none of the prior issues happened again, and trainers quickly completed the goal. The full 200 gifts could have been easily opened in the second hour of the Friendship biome, greatly making up for what many thought was lost the first time.

Rotom promo art. Credit: Niantic.
Rotom promo art. Credit: Niantic.

Spawns and GO Fest 2020 Biomes

A quick glance on Twitter exposed a major complaint that trainers had for GO Fest 2020: low shiny rates. Though no data has been released on the rates, it did feel markedly lower than this year's remote Safari Zones. Grinding a Safari Zone for one eight-hour day could easily wield thirty or more Shiny Pokémon, but that was less the case for GO Fest 2020. The rate was absolutely, noticeably boosted, but one major critique would be that GO Fest should be everything the Safari Zones leading up to it are, and more. It was also the biomes, which featured limited, themed spawns every hour on Saturday, that made it more difficult to hunt certain Pokémon. Sunday removed the biomes, and as such, a Pokémon like Gible who was only available in raids and during the Battle biome on Saturday could be encountered all day on Sunday. The biomes were an interesting experiment but were ultimately not missed on Sunday.

Global Challenge

These challenges on Saturday added an entirely new visual component to the game, allowing trainers to see how their friends were contributing to the challenges. The rewards were stellar, including three times stardust, the rare candies from gifts, and more. Trainers were also left with a choice to ignore this and focus on either raiding or shiny hunting, while still reaping the rewards if other trainers unlocked it. This was something that was missed on Sunday, even if the first round of the Friendship challenge was a disaster.

Raids

Raids weren't major aspects of previous GO Fests, because if you put a raid in a park crowded with thousands of people, the reaction may start a stampede of "Long live… the King!" levels. With the event happening digitally and Remote Raid Invites active, Niantic introduced rare, never-before-raidable Pokémon like Gible into this mechanic. When Groudon and Kyogre rolled out as the Legendary Raid Bosses for Day One, it seemed as if this was the whole plan for Tier Five raids… and it was good enough. For Niantic to follow up and add Giratina in both forms, Palkia, and Dialga on Day Two was a stunning move. It was also smart for the company not to release these three long-awaited Pokémon, who have been absent from raids for over a year, in their Shiny forms. The way they did it allowed players to catch a few of these coveted Legendary Pokémon and then resume normal GO Fest activities if desired. These Pokémon deserve a full month of raid rotation for their Shiny release, and Niantic gets that. Raids were, by far, the biggest win for GO Fest 2020.

Team GO Rocket promo art. Credit: Niantic.
Team GO Rocket promo art. Credit: Niantic.

Eggs and Pokéstops

This is the one loss for GO Fest 2020 besides the server errors. The event's egg pool was for 7KM eggs only, and it was relatively weak. There were no Pokéstop tasks and no event eggs, which is also something Safari Zone had that this bigger event did not. It may have been too much to focus on during this event, but spicy eggs were certainly missed.

GO Fest 2020 Special Research

Each day had a research line, with a simple Day One introduction that offered helpful rewards, and the Vicitini research for Day Two. The latter, Rocket Straight to Victory, was a Team GO Rocket quest-line that included perhaps the most generous rewards that Niantic has ever offered. The research was expected to and did culminate in an encounter with the Mythical Victini, but it also offered: Shadow Articuno, Shadow Zapdos, Shadow Moltres, and Shadow Mewtwo as research rewards. It was assumed that these Pokémon would be caught from the Team GO Rocket leaders and Giovanni, but it is notable that they were research rewards. Rocket catches from battles have no IV floor. They could be as weak as any wild Pokémon, likely because the Shadow Boost on these Pokémon makes them 20% more powerful than their non-Shadow equivalent. However, Pokémon caught in research have an IV floor that prevents them from being weak. Creating this floor for Shadow Pokémon in the research guarantees catching four Shadow Legendaries that are stronger than their 100% IV equivalent. Essentially, that 100% Mewtwo you've been grinding since its release years ago? The weakest one Niantic offered through this research has a stronger attack than that. In addition this, there was a Team GO Rocket takeover on Sunday that players could choose to play or ignore.

Pokémon GO Fest 2020 promo art. Credit: Niantic.
Pokémon GO Fest 2020 promo art. Credit: Niantic.

All in all, despite the wave of social media reactions, the key aspect of GO Fest 2020 was Niantic's generosity. They exceeded expectations of the event at almost every level, releasing teasers and then one-upping them during the actual event. With more than ten new Shiny Pokémon released, Gible raids introduced, a new Mythical, and ten Legendary Pokémon available during the event, this was a historic moment in Pokémon GO history, and two of the most fun days of gameplay, ever.

Niantic ended the event with radiant fireworks coloring the game's night sky, and I couldn't help, personally, but feel completely satisfied.

About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.