Every year since the hit game “Pokémon Go” sent hundreds of thousands of players around the world onto streets in search of rare creatures they could only see on their smartphones, die-hard fans have continued to meet up at the game’s annual Go Fest.But in the midst of a pandemic, organizers have decided against hosting an event that brings together tens of thousands of people to fixed places in cities, choosing instead to hold a digital-only version to prevent a spike in coronavirus infections.

While the number of tickets sold used to depend on the capacity of local parks, this time everyone will be able to buy a ticket and take part from anywhere.

(Images courtesy of Niantic)

The 2020 Go Fest event will run from 10:00 to 20:00 local time on July 25th and 26th, according to developer Niantic. To entice players back to the app, the maker says more than 75 species of Pokémon will appear in certain scenarios over the two days.

Traditionally, the Go Fests have drawn players to a physical location in search of rare Pokémon, the monsters players catch and train and which appear more frequently when other people are playing the game nearby.

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Last year, the summer events were held in cities around the world, from Chicago in the US to Dortmund in Germany.

This year, Niantic’s is lowering ticket costs due to there being no on-site expenses. The company wants to donate at least 5 million dollars from the Go Fest revenue in support of campaigns for the black community in the US.

Although the massive hype surrounding the augmented reality game’s launch in 2016 rapidly subsided in the year that followed, there is still a large core of active players.

Niantic wants to use this year’s digital event to support small businesses hit by the pandemic. Players can suggest their favourite places – for example local cafes or bookshops.

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Initially, 1,000 shops will be integrated into the Pokémon map for one year, and will have the opportunity to attract players with promotional events. However, the promotion is initially limited to the US, Canada, Japan, the UK and Mexico.

Niantic is largely financing its game through in-app purchases of special items to improve gameplay. Business initially declined during the pandemic, but is now recovering, Niantic CEO John Hanke said.

The developer is building a platform for linking digital items and events to the real world – and plans to publish at least 10 new games and digital experiences over the next five years.

After “Pokémon Go”, Niantic released the game “Wizards Unite”, which features objects and characters from the Harry Potter world.

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