Safari Zone Dortmund – A summary

Expectations were high and the disappointment was even greater as the event in Dortmund started. The situation got better over the course of the weekend, however there were still many issues at the event. We're trying to take a neutral look at the event and review  it from a player's perspective.

Network issues

About 55,000 guests were expected at the Westfalenpark on Saturday. However we have now learned that there were as many as 170,000 people in Dortmund and about 100,000 in the park on Saturday, so the chance of a failure was high. Many people even brought several phones and played for either secondary accounts or other players who couldn't make it to the event. Also probably an insane amount of spoofers, who also joined the event from home.

Knowing that, it's no wonder that the cell network couldn't handle that many people. Shortly after 9am, everything went either really slow or went down completely.

WiFi in the park didn't work for quite a number of people and for those who had connection, it still wasn't of much use, but more on that later.

An error occurred that prevented players who used an incense to log in. Accounts got temporarily „banned“ because of both a server crash and an issue regarding the use of incense. Users were blocked from playing the games for up to 7 hours!

Niantic acted correctly by increasing the spawn rate in everywhere and suggesting to leave the Westfalenpark and go into the city in order to get better cell service. They also made the special 2km eggs available throughout Dortmund. As the people spread out, the cell service got better and the game became playable again. For those who had problems during incense however, they would still be blocked for a couple of hours.

Day 2 thankfully went without any major problems.

The Westfalenpark

Safari Zone Dortmund - A summary 1

Players were standing in line at every entrance of the park on Saturday and there wasn't a visible end of the line.

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Instead of opening the park early to give people time to spread out into the park, the park was opened up at exactly 9am, which caused a lot hectic in our opinion. Bags weren't properly checked for bottles larger than 10oz/fl (0,3L) which in hindsight was good for everybody who entered the park. Temperatures reached up to 34°C (93°F) that day, so hydration was key.

However some players still collapsed, but thankfully the emergency service was right there and was able to help out everybody. A shout out to the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz at this point.

On day 2 the bags were checked properly by the security and bottles greater than 0,3L had to be left outside the park or thrown away. However not everybody got the same treatment. Some players had to throw away their beverages, others were still unchecked and could enter the park without having to leave their bottles. Many players felt that they were treated unfairly.

The park itself was very nicely decorated and the team lounges offered some shade for people to rest. However the water refill stations were not easy to find, since there were no signs on where to find them. We found them totally by accident.

The Personnel was friendly and tried to be helpful whenever possible. As soon as the network situation worsened and players got more and more upset, the service employees started to act more angrily and even tried to get some players removed from the park.

We were able to talk to vice president Omar H. Téllez of Niantic who was really helpful and tried to offer advice to anyone and who was listening to the player's problems.

Review of the in game event

Pokéstop and spawn density

First we have to establish that we personally and also many other players went into this event with high expectations. We experienced the Safari Event in Oberhausen 2017 first hand and we knew about the events in Japan through YouTubers like TrainerTips and Mystic7.

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The Westfalenpark itself was very disappointing when it comes to both spawn and Pokéstop density. A lot of times there were almost up to 200m without any stops or spawns, so there wasn't really a lot of catching going on compared to the other Safari events. There should have been a lot more additional Pokéstops for the event.

The team lounges had Wifi which was great for everybody who struggled with their cell service. However the Wifi was limited to a small radius around the lounges and within that radius nothing spawned, which made the Wifi completely useless.

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Credit PkmnMasterHolly

Outside of the park was a whole different story. There were many Pokéstops around and the spawn rate was crazy high.

Variety of Pokémon

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Roselia and shiny Roselia both worked very well with the theme of the park and the rose gardens all around. Ralts, Larvitar and Slakoth were also reasonable choices compared with other Safari events.

However it was kind of disappointing to see mostly Swablu inside the Park itself. A Pokémon which is very common already plus Wurmple – a Pokémon that has no real reason to be part of an event like this in our opinion.

Compared to events in Oberhausen and Japan that had loads of Chansey, Larvitar, Dratini, Mareep and other rare Pokémon, this event seemed like a very bad deal. Even Larvitar itself, which is a great Pokémon, was rather uninteresting because it was just featured at the community day last month and it can no longer learn smack down.

Funny enough, as soon as you left the park, the majority of spawns were Larvitar, Unown, Corsola and Pikachu, yet in the park you were overrun by Swablu and Roselia.

Special 2km eggs

The next big disappointment were the special eggs at the event. The egg pool was way, way too big and it felt like almost every Pokémon hatched from these eggs. Special 2km eggs that mostly hatch regular Pokémon like Swablu, Swinub, Barboach, Nosepass and Wailmer among others, are not really worthy of the Safari event in our opinion. It's okay and understandable that not every hatched Pokémon is a top, meta relevant Pokémon. However it seemed like the amount of bad hatches was the majority of Pokémon in the egg pool. This is especially disappointing to those who knew the possible hatches from other Safari events like Oberhausen, which had a much better egg pool.

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So even if it would have been worth it spending money on incubators, the drop rate of eggs was pretty low. Sometimes you wouldn't get an egg for 5-10 Pokéstops and considering the low density of Stops inside the park made egg hatching almost useless.

Global Research Challenge

A major part of this event was the global research challenge, that happened simultaneously throughout the world and also in Dortmund. The players at Dortmund were tasked to solve 100,000 research tasks during the event.

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A task that is hard to accomplish if most of the players aren't even able to log in for 7 hours, there are no gyms inside the park, but almost every research task within the park is „battle in a gym“ or „battle in a raid.“

In our opinion Niantic failed completely on this part. An event centered around an even bigger global event that involves doing research tasks, should at least have tasks that the players at the event can accomplish.

Also it would have been great if there were special tasks for the people at the event like „catch 5 Roselia“ which could have rewarded them a Dratini or something like that.

Positive things

Omar H. Téllezinformed us that there will most likely be a compensation for the inconvenience caused by all the various issues at the park. Mr. Téllez was very kind and offered to help players at the park. He offered some coupons for drinks and food to keep the spirit up.

Many players, us included, enjoyed the fact that Niantic didn't end the event on day 1 at 9pm as it was originally planned. However the event continued all through the night and went straight into day 2 of the event. Players were able to make up some of the lost time by playing at night.

We also had the feeling that Niantic boosted the shiny rates, in order to also boost the mood of the players, which worked fine.

Parting words

We won't blame Niantic entirely for the network breakdown. However there could have been a better solution to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Being it a closed event for a smaller number of people, using QR-codes to exactly determine the number of players at the event, or to just simply start the event in the whole city area, without restricting it to a park in the first place.

The city of Dortmund handled the event really well and we would like to thank the City of Dortmund for a smooth event. No negative impacts or riots were brought to our attention and the German police was helpful whenever possible.

The event itself however still was disappointing, because of many missed opportunities. Not having research tasks specifically designed for the event was especially sad, because it could have made the event a much more fun experience.

Still, the Pokémon Go community had fun and made the best of it.

The „special Europe-wide“ event however is a really bad way of saying „we're sorry“ in our opinion. The people who benefit from this event are the ones who didn't go to Dortmund in the first place, not the ones who spent time and money to get to Dortmund and experienced the event first hand. This sets a very bad example for future events, because people will much likely rather stay at home and hope for the event to fail, because they will profit from it!

Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann
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