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Pokémon Go developer, cell service providers say they’re ready for weekend Fest

Niantic Inc. and the major cellular companies say they are prepared for this year's Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago's Lincoln Park. | Sun-Times file photo

The game developer behind augmented reality game Pokémon Go said it’s prepared for this year’s Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, after last year’s inaugural festival was plagued by “disastrous” technological difficulties.

“The event will feature a much larger footprint and be more geographically distributed compared to last year,” Niantic Inc. spokesman Yafine Lee told the Sun-Times in an email.

Last year’s event in Grant Park suffered from significant problems and glitches, which Niantic Chief Executive Officer John Hanke in a blog post attributed to issues with the game software and with cell networks. Dissatisfied Fest attendees settled a class-action lawsuit for about $1.6 million in April.

Video by Max Herman | Pokémon GO trainers gather in Grant Park for Pokémon GO Fest on July 22, 2017.

The nation’s four largest cellular network providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — said they have implemented upgrades in anticipation of this year’s event.

“We’ve deployed four additional temporary cell sites in the Lincoln Park area,” said Jennifer Silveira, senior vice president of engineering and technology for T-Mobile’s Central Region. The portable cell towers are being tested in Chicago this week.

Verizon has installed two mobile cell sites around Lincoln Park, according to representative Steve Van Dinter. AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly said the company is deploying two cell sites to boost their network capacity. Sprint has deployed one mobile cell tower.

The festival’s gameplay area this year will stretch across 1.8 miles of Lincoln Park on two days, unlike last year’s event, which took place on a single day and had a much smaller area in Grant Park. Players who enter the Fest in Lincoln Park on Saturday, July 14 will not be able to see or interact with Pokémon within the park again on Sunday, July 15.

Hanke’s blog post last year said connectivity issues appeared to resolve themselves as players spread out beyond the Grant Park boundaries to places “where the cellular network was less overburdened.”