Go inside Pokémon GO Fest 2018 in Chicago, Illinois, as we take a walk in Lincoln Park.

Gotta catch ’em all with Pokémon GO, the Pokémon Company and Niantic’s innovative AR mobile game. On July 14th and 15th, over 21,000 Trainers attended Niantic’s 2nd Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago’s beautiful Lincoln Park on the shore of Lake Michigan, while 180,000 mobile gamers participated in the surrounding Chicago area, and tens of millions of Trainers all over the world took part in Pokémon GO’s global challenge.

Pokemon Go Fest 2018

Pokémon GO Trainers enjoyed a 1.8-mile curated walking path in Lincoln Park, featuring four dynamic habitats filled with more than 50 species of Pokémon. In addition to Plusle and Minun appearing throughout the event, Trainers encountered digital Pokémon such as Ludicolo, Torkoal, and Metagross. Event attendees walked an average of more than 6 kilometers, completed an average of 36 research tasks and caught an average of 350 Pokémon at the 2018 GO Fest. Mixing Advanced Augmented Reality (AR), the event’s habitats, trading and catching, and connecting with fellow Trainers, the world of Pokémon truly came alive in Chicago.

“What AR really means is connecting digital information, objects and experiences with the physical world in situ as you experience them. It’s the part about connecting information to the world that’s important. In Chicago, we created a really fun, interesting environment for people to move through, and to really experience the full breadth of the park,” said John Hanke, the founder and CEO of Niantic, a software development company spun out of Google that designed Ingress, Pokémon GO and the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

Pokémon GO Trainers at the event were also provided an exclusive research task, to catch the mythical Celebi.

“I had read rumors that Celebi was going to he released into the game during the event, and I was not disappointed–all attendees had the ultimate ‘goal’ of completing the special research to catch Celebi, although collectors such as myself had other goals in mind, as well. My group and I took care of Celebi by 11:30, only a quarter of the way into the event,” said Dustin Berenz, a trainer from Madison, Wisconsin.

The 2018 event was a major improvement over the glitchy debut in 2017, where cell service lagged, the app didn’t work, and participants angrily booed.

“Obviously great care was taken to utilize the cell network infrastructure to its fullest,” said trainer Dronpes, the co-founder of The Silph Road, a grassroots network of Pokémon GO trainers. “A 1.8 mile loop was planned in place of a crowded field. COWs, COLTs, and Super COWS were deployed in force. State-of-the-art wi-fi was even rolled out as a back-up. But beyond the infrastructure itself, the event’s in-game incentives were designed to draw folks away from the crowded entrances where cell towers historically get overloaded. The new ‘Research’ feature was used brilliantly to give attendees a to-do list in the park, a sense of purpose and progression, and lucrative rewards worth pursuing. This was, in my opinion, a great improvement over last year’s event where folks generally wandered un-incentivized through the small area and waited to be entertained.”

Pokemon go fest 2018

“The mood was infectious all weekend,” Niantic said in a thank you message to fans. “The feelings of courtesy, kindness, and togetherness never left Lincoln Park, even as trainers filed out at the end of Sunday’s journey.”

With new features, like connecting with fellow trainers and trading, the Pokémon GO app has matured into a full-fledged mobile game that embraces community and friendship.

“I had a lot of fun bumping into players I’ve interacted with online but never met,” said trainer Ceppi, the other co-founder of The Silph Road. “Plus, getting to trade with others. One of my favorite trades was a Tropius I caught in Malta for a Hypno that was caught 2 years to the day, the player’s first Hypno. It was cool to help complete someone’s Pokedex and get such a treasured Pokémon in return.”

Most importantly, the stars have aligned with the great new features of the Pokémon GO app and the exceptional 2018 event. The game is actually fun again.

“As a whole, I really enjoyed the event–I had few doubts that Niantic fixed the issues from last year, and they delivered. I liked how spread out things were. One actually had to walk to get from one end of the park to another. The variety of Pokemon available was also good, but not awesome. Serious players like myself already have caught almost everything that was available in the park this weekend, but a more casual player might have been blown away by some of the Pokemon that regularly spawned,” added Berenz.

Pokemon go fest 2018

Pokémon Go Fest 2018 is part of what Niantic has named the Pokémon Go Summer Tour. The last event takes place Aug. 29-Sept. 2 in Yokosuka, Japan.

“2018 GO Fest has left me beaming,” Ceppi added. “The fest really felt like an event, it wasn’t anything like 2017, network interruptions aside. I felt like I was playing with a purpose, the walking loop was just the right size, and it felt immersive. Truly from start to finish, Niantic has really put thought into how these events should feel and play through. I look forward to future events!”

Here’s hoping for another Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago next summer…and more live events elsewhere, as well.