Technical Glitches at the Pokémon Go Fest Reveal Infrastructure Issues with Live Gaming Events
This past Saturday, Niantic Labs hosted their first ever Pokémon Go Fest at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. The festival focused on the hit game Pokémon Go and was going to include increased Pokémon encounters, team challenges, and special Pokéstops throughout the park. Although tickets were originally sold for $20, many attendees paid above face value and some even traveled from as far as Europe and Australia to attend. However, the event was riddled with connection issues as fans couldn’t log in or play the game. Fans grew increasingly irate and even began chanting “We can’t play!” and heckled the Niantic CEO on stage. Niantic has offered to refund the cost of everyone’s ticket and $100 of in-game tokens but the damage had already been done as a majority of fans were upset with this subpar experience.
Poor Wi-Fi and internet have become commonplace at large sporting events or concerts as the high concentration of smart phones tend to overwhelm local cellular networks and disrupt service. Newer stadiums have worked to address this issue by working with companies like Boingo to build in Wi-Fi networks to enhance the fan experience as passive phone use has become standard during any live event.
However given the unique nature of Pokémon Go as an augmented reality game that incorporates a user’s environment, the Pokémon Go Fest was a completely new kind of event that offered an unprecedented level of engagement and challenges. Unlike traditional esports events where fans gather to watch live matches on big screens while using their phones as a secondary experience, Pokémon Go Fest was a completely decentralized event where every attendee was part of the action and experienced the event on their own phones.
Despite the failures of the Pokémon Go Fest, I expect live events around community oriented mobile games like Pokémon Go to only increase as these games popularity continue to soar and fans get to connect and play IRL. Previously there had been no need for such a robust infrastructure that could support 20,000 people congregating to all user their phones simultaneously but now given the highly public failures of Pokémon Go Fest, event operators will be extremely meticulous in strengthening and testing these networks. The reward of 20,000 people interacting IRL and digitally in an augmented reality live event is too great in terms of engagement for game publishers to pass up, even with the huge potential risks.
Rule Change Allows Banned Players to Re-Join CS:GO Circuit
Following a rule change on Monday by the Esports Integrity Coalition, tournament organizer ESL announced the Valve-banned GS:GO players formerly of iBUYPOWER and Epsilon Esports will be eligible to participate in competitions hosted by ESL beginning August 1.
In 2014, four iBUYPOWER players threw a match in collaboration with CEO Casey Foster while simultaneously betting against themselves. The players had been banned by Valve and affiliate tournament organizers for match-fixing since January and February 2015.
These players will be able to compete in non-Valve sponsored ESL events, such as the ESL Pro League, ESL One and Intel Extreme Masters events as long as those tournaments do not have a Valve-designated major title associated with them.
Depending on your personal stance on second chances, this can be viewed as either a sensible victory or a tainting stain for the ESL community. Performance based scandals have never been a stranger to the sports world and the esports community has already seen its fair share of controversy. I, for one, happen to believe in them and find lifetime bans for first-time offenders to be quite harsh. In a relatively new ecosystem, punishments can often come out to be this way. Severe punishments serve as the best deterrent of any future illicit actions and it makes sense to come out strong and establish authority. However, it’s also prudent to be open to change and adjust rules accordingly.
Whether you agree or disagree with the retroactive consequences of this revision, instituting new, thought-out regulations is progressive. The ESIC obviously found their initial ruling to be iron-clad and transitioned to a more reasonable punishment.
Future cheaters will be banned for a period with a minimum of two years, with a potential of a lifetime ban, depending on a number of factors. Meanwhile future match-fixers will receive a five-year ban. Doping results in a ban of 1-2 years and forfeiture of prize money, while bribes also result in a similar punishment.
In an ecosystem that changes so rapidly, these punishments still represent huge windows of time for an esports athlete. The new rules are in no way weak, but also give players the opportunity for second chances, which is consistent with most professional sports leagues. There will never be a right answer when it comes to handling cheaters, but adjusting rules and regulations in favor of a more reasonable stance will always be the right move.
Philippine Government Grants Esports Players Athletic Licenses
The Philippine Games and Amusement Board recently announced that it would be granting Philippine Dota 2 players from the TNC Professional Team and Execration athletic licenses so that they are able to participate in the main Dota 2 tournament titled The International. This should aid in reducing any visa related troubles for the athletes attending events in other countries. On July 21st, both teams announced that they were able to secure visas to attend The International 7. This is a welcome announcement as just last year Execration was forced to miss the Boston Major due to their failure to secure visas for the players.
The debate between fans regarding the status of professional gamers as “athletes” is a prevalent one, however it is important that players shouldn’t be restricted from international competition due to uncertainty of their status. There are several examples in recent years of players being unable to perform on the international stage due to visa issues. A recent example would be Super Smash Bros Melee talent William “Leffen” Hjelte’s repeated issues with gaining entrance to the US on the basis that USCIS does not recognize SSBM as a “legitimate sport”. With esports becoming a global phenomenon, it is important that players be allowed to showcase their skill without fear of being rejected due to visa issues. In this light the Philippines can be used as an example, with other countries encouraged to follow in their footsteps.