In the summer of 2016, the developers at Niantic broke all records with a new mobile game: Pokémon Go. The big hype only lasted a few weeks. But the game about Pikachu, Charmander and Mewtu still has a number of fans and thousands of active players.
The so-called trainers will meet next weekend in the Britzer Garden in Berlin. The three-day Pokémon Go Fest takes place there. From July 1st to 3rd, the green areas of the Neuköllner Park will be transformed into a virtual playing field.
In an interview, Philip Marz, Head of Marketing for Pokémon Go EMEA, explains why the festival is taking place in the Britzer Garten of all places and why Pokémon Go has been so successful to this day.
Mr. Marz, how long has the Pokémon Go Fest been around? The origins of the Pokémon Go Fest go back to 2017, almost a year after the app was launched. It took place in Chicago then, just like in 2018. Demand increased continuously in all regions during this time, which meant that we were able to bring the festival to Europe for the first time in 2019, especially to Germany in the Westfalenpark in Dortmund.
Why go there? At such events there is a long list of requirements that must be given or fulfilled. And unfortunately there are only a handful of parks in Europe where this is possible. And one of them in 2019 was the Westfalenpark.
Due to the pandemic, the live event was canceled for two years. And now the reboot in Berlin? We couldn’t be happier and more excited to bring it all back to Europe, back to Germany and the real world. Of course, as the host city, Berlin also has a different external impact on a global level. Berlin as a culturally shaped city speaks for itself, but also as the federal capital – we expect 60 percent international participants.
Why is the Britzer Garden particularly suitable? The dimensions and structure of the Britzer Garden are simply perfect for what we want to do there. This always follows three principles: movement, discovery and interaction in the real world.
Will the entire park become a playing field? The park is huge in its basic design and even larger than what we know from 2019 from the Westfalenpark in Dortmund. That’s why we had to limit ourselves to a sub-area that occupies about half of the Britzer Garden when it came to the presentation and design of our event format.
Are only Pokémon players allowed to enter the garden this weekend? A regulation was found with the operator Grün Berlin that those who have an annual pass also have access to the park, in order to offer many people the opportunity to enjoy the very special Pokémon Go experience in Berlin. Regardless of whether you play the game or not.
What are the hurdles on site? There are many areas of water that we cannot use for the event. What is always very important to us in the implementation is the network to ensure the best possible Internet connection. It helps if you have level ground. But the Britzer Garten has some hills and is also densely overgrown. So we had to exclude a few areas.
“Hardly anyone plays Pokemon Go anymore,” it is often said. Is that true? Pokémon Go is one of the most successful mobile games of all time with more than a billion downloads in the available app stores and is still on everyone’s lips. The game continues to be very successful and positioned in the relevant target group. It’s a game for everyone, for every woman, for every individual, regardless of interests, regardless of background. And we express that with these experiences in the real world. It doesn’t take any previous knowledge to take part and to develop and participate in this fun for yourself. And that’s what makes Pokémon Go so successful, now in its sixth year.
Niantic has maintained to this day that any player can continue to play for free if he or she is unwilling to pay money. It’s also very important to us to really ensure that accessibility. It’s not a pay-to-win game. Of course, you can invest a few euros to get to your destination faster. But it’s not required for overall success and that’s what, at its core, stands above all for us. The community core is clearly our focus.
When did you start at Niantic? I started at Niantic in the summer of 2017. We were almost 70 employees worldwide. Today we are more than 1000. You can see how the company has grown with the product. For me personally, it is still something very special to do my part, because you also have a very special connection – both to the company and to the product, because you have been part of the whole development since infancy.
Did you watch the series as a child and play Pokémon on the Game Boy? I was born in 1987. I remember it: I came from school and of course I had to watch Pokémon on RTL 2. And also play on the Game Boy – of course. So that was part of my youth. And if you then have the opportunity to revive a piece of childhood memory and now technologically take the whole thing into the real world, that’s also very appealing for an adult. And you don’t have to be a gamer to be 100% behind this product.
So Pokémon Go is a game for young and old? We will see people of all ages and backgrounds in the Britzer Garten. It starts in the early single digits all the way up to… the oldest player I’ve met myself was 98. And that’s just great. This is exactly what is so important to us and what we always focus on.
What exactly can visitors expect at Go Fest this coming weekend?Pokémon Go Fest is all about finding a game board that continuously connects the digital and real worlds. You dive into the Pokémon Go world on this day. When you enter the Britzer Garten, you are greeted by music, it’s like a visit to the amusement park. There are different worlds of experience, special decorations, areas where you can exchange ideas with other coaches and fans. And you can take photos with Pikachu.
So to speak, Pikachu you can touch?Pikachu is of course one of the strongest and most recognizable elements. Even if it now plays a subordinate role for this event, specifically within the game, Pikachu in particular has ensured that the brand, the product, is the first thing that attracts attention worldwide.