Irate ‘Pokemon Go Fest’ Attendees File Lawsuit Against Developer Niantic

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

After the unmitigated disaster that was Niantic’s “Pokemon Go Fest” in Chicago on July 24, some especially discontent attendees want to take their complaints one decisive step further.

Chicago-based attorney Thomas Zimmerman was contacted by Jonathan Norton and dozens of his fellow Pokemon Go Fest attendees regarding the debacle in Grant Park. According to Zimmerman:

[Norton] paid to fly out [to Chicago] for the festival, and had to wait for several hours in line, just like most everybody else in order to get in. However, when he — and other attendees — arrived, they were unable to play the game and thus unable to capture the rare Pokemon available there.

This isn’t a matter of a simple walk in the park. Norton is one of many people who went to serious expense to attend what was supposed to be a massive social gaming event, just like any number of other hobbyist gatherings. Zimmerman noted that “Niantic is not offering to refund people’s travel expenses for coming to Chicago. And that’s a big problem, since according to him, “most of the people came from out of state, many people from other countries — I talked to someone who flew in from Japan.”

The bottom line is relatively simple. Zimmerman’s clients aren’t looking for some Pokemon-specific restitution, which Niantic has already provided via in-game bonuses and ticket refunds. The problem is the very real time, money, and hours of stress invested by good-faith consumers who went out of their way to participate in the official event:

The issue is, what was promised, what was the incentive that people relied on and the representations that people relied on to buy a ticket and make travel plans and fly to Chicago to participate in this festival, would they have done that had they known that that was not going to be lived up to and they weren’t going to get the experience that was represented?

At best, Niantic’s John Hanke provided a decidedly antiseptic explanation via blog post:

Technical issues with our game software caused client crashes and interfered with gameplay for some users. A more protracted problem was caused by oversaturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers. This caused many attendees to be unable to access Pokémon Go or other Internet services. Network congestion also led to a login issue which affected some users able to access the Internet.

And while he tried to turn the failure into something inspirational with musings about how their own guests banded together to catch a few rare Pokemon outside of the event, his words failed in the minds of those in the lawsuit to rewind time or refill emptied wallets. When asked about the suit, Niantic was considerably less effusive, stating that the company “does not comment on pending legal matters.”

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.

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