Scenes from San Francisco's massive Pokémon Go meetup
Pokémon Go is taking over the world, and players in San Francisco put together a massive gathering aimed at bringing fans of the game together in the high tech mecca. The journey started in two places at once: Mission Dolores Park, and the city’s waterfront, near the financial district.
The gathering was nearly sunk by technical issues
The event almost didn’t happen – Pokémon Go’s servers were down for much of the afternoon, and the game was unplayable until about an hour before the meet up was slated to happen. A couple of people in a chat room set up to coordinate the event half-jokingly suggested that it could be turned into a protest outside the offices of Niantic, a San Francisco company that makes the game.
The games begin
Several hundred trainers met up by the historic Ferry Building and began their walk down Market Street towards the heart of downtown. Canvassers seeking donations for the American Civil Liberties Union were sent out to the meetup, along with representatives from Lyft and Omni, an on-demand storage startup, who were there to promote their companies.
Costumed fans came out
Some "trainers," as players are known, dressed up for the occasion, sporting Pokémon pajamas, apparel declaring their allegiance to one of the teams in the game, or more complex costumes based on characters from the game and television series. Plenty of non-costumed players carried or wore paraphernalia related to other gaming franchises like “Halo,” or apparel sporting tech company logos.
How it all worked
As players started walking up Market Street, they fired up the game on their smartphones and used digital items to attract Pokémon to their pseudo-parade route. (Pokémon Go players have to move around in the physical world in order to walk around in gamthe e.) Participants largely followed traffic laws, despite staring intently at the game on their phones.
Businesses cashed in on all the activity
As the group made its way through the heart of San Francisco’s downtown, people started to splinter off. Businesses along the route had Pokémon-themed specials, including the Razer store in the city’s central mall, which had a line out the door for a headphone raffle.
A recently-opened market, which houses several restaurants and bars, advertised Pokémon-themed specials, including a trio of Jello shots designed for in-game teams.
Trainers played on as night fell
As night fell, a group of players converged on Dolores Park, while others made their way to local bars and restaurants in smaller groups. Some of them complained about the event’s lack of a defined route, but they were all still out catching Pokemon.
What could come next: massive, officially-sanctioned events
The crowds provide a glimpse of what could happen if Niantic decides to operate official Pokémon Go events, tied into the action of the game. The company already does that with Ingress, the predecessor to Pokémon Go, and those events (like a recent one pictured here) can bring in thousands of players from around the world.