“Pokémon Go”: Recent Woes Provide a Valuable Lesson in Event Planning

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/pokemon%20go/

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/pokemon%20go/

Just last month, we took a look at “Pokémon Go” on its one year anniversary and gave some lessons that arts organizations can take away from its success and failures. Niantic, the augmented reality game's developer, might have benefited from looking at our takeaway list before they planned and launched a comeback event for the game in Chicago just last week.

In an effort to reengage users and bring new ones on board, the company planned a festival event centered around the game in downtown Chicago that gained traction among fans, as about 20,000 people ended up attending. Unfortunately, the festival ended up setting Niantic even further back on their quest to revive the game to its initial popularity. The very bulk of the apathetic people Niantic hoped to win over were now enraged, as demonstrated by the crowd's booing of CEO John Hanke when he took the stage later in the afternoon.

The “Pokémon Go” saga continues to teach arts managers more valuable lessons:

1. Estimate the scale of your event and the external and internal implications of its size:  Niantic was clearly unprepared for the mass interest in their event. Lines to enter the festival and once inside were uncomfortably long, and the game didn't work for the majority of the day because both the game's servers and local cell towers crashed. Arts managers should ensure they have a reasonable idea of the interest among the public and have the bandwidth within applications or exhibits themselves, enough onsite personnel, and appropriate wifi coverage at their facilities.  

2. Plan in advance to avoid further financial setbacks:  In order to mitigate anger among attendees and negative sentiments about the game from spreading, Niantic promised to refund all admission costs and give each user $100 in credit to keep playing the game. At about 20,000 estimated attendees and $20 dollars a ticket, that is nearly a 2.5 million dollar setback! Additionally, there has been a class action lawsuit filed for the travel expenses for those who traveled from across the world to attend this well hyped up event. Clearly, these are not the results the company hoped for. Learn a lesson from the outcome of this event and ensure that you do not over promise and under deliver to your patrons. 

3. Do not be afraid to postpone or cancel events that you are not prepared for: Due to the financial implications and negative perceptions that this first revival event lead to, Niantic took a step back and postponed a series impending planned events in Europe to prevent another similar disaster. If your arts organization's event does not go as planned, whether it is an initial launch or an attempt to reboot an exhibit or audience engagement tactic that was once popular, learn to recognize when it is time to take a step back and regroup in order to prevent your organization from digging a deeper hole. In the long run, patrons will appreciate your honesty and that you did not host a subpar event that wasted their time and money.

Has your organization experienced a similar situation to Niantic's recent Pokemon Go debacle?  If so, how did you navigate it and what advice do you have for other arts managers? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below.