Niantic and the Pokémon GO Team have just laid another annual Pokémon GO Fest to rest. Much like the 2020 event, players all over the world were able to participate no matter where they are located. During years prior, players would have to purchase tickets and travel to specified cities where the event was taking place. Due to travel restrictions caused by a worldwide pandemic, Pokémon GO made the annual virtual festival a completely virtual experience. The event was a huge success, and as such, the Pokémon GO Team announced that Pokémon GO Fest 2021 would be a hybrid event, allowing players to stay at home while they play or travel to one of 20 cities around the globe holding in-person celebrations.
To sweeten the pot, tickets for the event were discounted in light of this year being Pokémon GO's fifth anniversary. Instead of $14.99 U.S., tickets to the virtual experience were $4.99. While ticket holders would receive various in-game bonuses, every player could participate in the event. Some bonuses, such as increased shiny rates and early access to Meloetta, made the price tag seem minuscule. And while half of the weekend was a fun experience, the event as a whole didn't seem worth the entry fee when it was all said and done.
The big-ticket item for the weekend was the increased shiny rate. The exact rate that they appear wasn't disclosed, but many players speculated that it would be the same rate as Community Days or better. Ticket Holders would also have access to exclusive Pokémon through the use of Incense, and therefore would have access to exclusive shiny Pokémon. There were a few more notable bonuses like access to a Pikachu wearing a special Rockstar or Popstar costume. But these costumed Pokémon won't be viable in competitive play, and they likely won't hold much worth in a few weeks.
Pokémon GO Fest 2021 spanned two days, July 17–18, and Day 1 was the most enjoyable part of the experience by far. Encountering a ton of Pokémon that aren't frequently found in the wild was awesome, and the rate they spawned made it seem like there was always something to do. The changing biome mechanic from 2020 made a return, which ensured you wouldn't be stuck encountering the same Pokémon over and over. But taking a step back to look at the first day of the event revealed that the greatest moments were also available to those who didn't purchase a ticket. Sure, non-ticketed players didn't have the luxury of catching 20–30 shiny Pokémon in a weekend. However, the shiny Pokémon they did encounter likely brought more excitement and are cherished more than someone who was able to catch 20 a day.
Paying $5 for easy shinies is reasonable, but the regret from purchasing a ticket really set in on Day 2. Further pushing its pay-to-play mantra, the second day was themed around Raids. To Niantic's credit, it did give players a generous number of free Remote Raid Passes to use throughout the day. But once those were gone, players were once again forced to buy more if they wanted to participate in the day's events. But seeing how Day 2 panned out, it wouldn't be surprising if some players didn't end up using all of their free passes.
Similar to last year and every other major event Pokémon GO attempts to host, there were plenty of technical errors on Day 2. Some people on Twitter reported that Raids were behaving in abnormal ways, from Pokemon freezing and being unable to attack to players being kicked out of Raids with no warning. While this caused several players to waste their free Remote Raid Passes, it also caused players to lose ones they had paid for. Remote Raid Passes cost roughly $1 each, and if a player wanted to get the most out of Pokémon GO Fest Day 2, they would likely need to spend money on more passes.
Even for those raiding remotely that had minimal connectivity issues, the catch rates for these legendary Pokémon were abysmal. Players could get into a lobby with enough teammates to take down the raid boss only to be denied a capture by RNG. After a day of relaxing captures and easy challenges, Day 2 felt like a frustrating mess.
Players who purchased tickets for the event weren't given any bonus passes on Day 2, nor did they really feel the effects of the increased shiny rates. It became more and more obvious that the reason Pokémon GO Fest tickets were discounted was less because of the anniversary and more because of the lack of exclusive content for ticket holders. With half of the event being unplayable, and the other giving players a costumed Pikachu, a player pose, and cheap shinies, this weekend didn't feel like a $5 experience.
There are plenty of players who walked away from this weekend feeling fulfilled, but that doesn't mean the event was worth the entry fee. Spending more money to travel to the physical celebrations would have been a better use of hard-earned funds. Nonetheless, Pokémon as a whole has become a massive titan in the entertainment industry. People will continue to play Pokémon GO, and it will continue to make more money year after year. Niantic doesn't have to make the game more accessible, raids more stable, or give players more bang for their buck. The truth is, Pokémon GO has become too big to fail. However, even though there were fun moments this weekend, Pokémon GO Fest 2021 wasn't worth $5. Let's just hope there's more for players when Pokémon GO Fest 2022 veers its $15 head next year.