How Pokémon Go Fest 2020 will encourage social distancing

Pokemon Go Fest Key Art
Pokemon Go Fest Key Art (Image credit: Niantic)

For anyone who has been involved in a live event hosted by Niantic, it can be hard to imagine recreating such an event today, when social distancing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Although there are areas reopening, countless health officials have warned that social distancing is still necessary. So, when Niantic announced that Pokémon Go Fest 2020 would still be happening, many of us were justifiably concerned as to how such a massive event could be done safely.

John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, has assured us that Pokémon Go Fest 2020 is a fully virtual experience. While Trainers are encouraged to go outside and enjoy the summer, this event has been designed to allow participation while still practicing social distancing.

What is Pokémon Go Fest?

Pokemon Go Fest Group (Image credit: Niantic)

The biggest event of the year for Pokémon Go, the Pokémon Go Fest is an annual celebration of all things Pokémon Go. First started in 2017 in Chicago, the Pokémon Go Fest was a real world gathering of players who worked together to complete challenges, catch Pokémon old and new, and celebrate their love for the game. Since then, Niantic has hosted this event every year.

Pokemon Go Fest Group Shot (Image credit: Niantic)

In 2019, Pokémon Go Fest expanded to include events in Dortmud and Yokohama, as well as Chicago. Although attendees had access to unique Pokémon and rewards, these events have also included rewards for players who were not able to attend and have involved unlocking new Pokémon and features for the game going forward. For example, at the first Pokémon Go Fest, Lugia was introduced as the first Legendary Pokémon in the game.

How will Pokémon Go Fest 2020 be different?

Pokemon Go Fest Hero Image New

Pokemon Go Fest Hero Image New (Image credit: Niantic)

Due to the global pandemic, social distancing is absolutely critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although Niantic certainly has plans for future live events that would, once again involve hundreds of players in one spot, to make Pokémon Go Fest 2020 a reality, Niantic needed a creative new approach. This is not the first virtual event Niantic has hosted - after all, Pokémon Go Community Day has evolved to a Play at Home Edition that works really well! - but it's certainly the biggest virtual event. Because Pokémon Go Fest was such a huge event in years past, it was important for Niantic to make this event feel uniquely Pokémon Go, as well as provide fun and excitement in a safe way for players around the world.

While the activities players will be completing for Pokémon Go Fest 2020 have been designed to accommodate safe social distancing, there are some specific features designed to keep the community engaged and connected throughout this two day event.

Niantic Social

A new feature coming to Pokémon Go first is Niantic Social. Using Niantic Social, players will be able to see online friends in real time, which will make it possible to coordinate Raid Invitations so that friends can tackle Remote Raids together. As players need to team up to take on the most challenging of Raids, this new feature will make a huge difference, both during Pokémon Go Fest and after.

Global Challenges before and during Go Fest

Global Challenge Arena En (Image credit: Niantic)

In the weeks leading up to Pokémon Go Fest 2020, players around the world will be invited to take part in Timed Special Research, similar to those featured in the Throwback Challenge Event. Each week will feature a new Timed Special Research Line. The more players to complete these challenges, the more Pokémon will be unlocked during Pokémon Go Fest 2020.

The Global Challenges will continue during the event as well. All players with tickets will be able to take part in the Global Challenge Arena during the first day of the event. Every hour, there will be a new challenge tied to the rotating habitats. If players can complete the challenge before the hour is up, they will enjoy awesome bonuses for the remainder of the hour. One such challenge could be sending 100,000 Gifts to Friends. If players around the world hit this total, for the rest of the hour, Gifts will include Rare Candies.

Rotating Habitats

As any Pokémon Go Trainer can tell you, different places in the world spawn different Pokémon. If you go to the water, you'll find more Water type Pokémon. Parks feature Pokémon nests where, each week, a different Pokémon species shows up more at that particular park. At previous Pokémon Go Fests, Niantic constructed massive props and sets to transport players into the world of the Pokémon they were catching.

Although these sets aren't really possible in a global event, and social distancing can make it difficult, if not impossible to travel to different locations, Niantic will be implementing five different habitats which will rotate every hour. These habitats will be themed around Fire, Water, Grass, Friendship, and Battle. Each habitat will be featured twice on day one. In addition to Pokémon specific to these themes spawning, players will have challenges tied to those themes as well.

Special Research

Pokemon Go Professor Willow (Image credit: Niantic)

On top of hourly challenges, Pokémon Go Fest 2020 will be built around not one but two Special Research lines. Players will have to work with Professor Willow both days to solve the mysteries surrounding a new Mythical Pokémon. Although Niantic hasn't revealed which Mythical Pokémon will be featured, Trainers are advised to keep an eye on Niantic's official social media accounts for clues as we get closer to the event. To access these Special Research lines, players need to log in on both days of the event, but once unlocked, they can be completed at any time. They will not expire if players are unable to finish them on the day they are unlocked.

Virtual Team Lounges

One of the best parts of previous Pokémon Go Fests had to be the Team Lounges. These spaces dedicated to each of the three Pokémon Go Teams served as places for Trainers to relax, meet other Trainers, take part in fun activities, and share their love of Pokémon Go. While we can't meet face-to-face this year, Niantic is setting up a microsite for the event where players will be able to set up a personal, virtual lounge. Using the virtual lounge, Trainers will be able to chat with other players, participate in virtual activities, and even win awesome giveaways. These lounges, like the real world counterparts, won't be restricted to one team or another, but there will be some fun, team specific surprises for Trainers in their personal lounge.

Sign me up!

Are you completely sold on all the fun Niantic has in store for Pokémon Go Fest 2020? Great! The event will run on July 25-26, 2020 from 10 AM to 8 PM local time. Tickets are on sale beginning today, June 15, 2020 through the Pokémon Go App. A ticket costs $15 USD or local equivalent and is good for both days of the event. And the best part? Unlike in past years, there is no ticket cap. These tickets will not be selling out in 15-30 minutes and you won't have to pay an arm and a leg to scalpers for your chance to play.


Do you have any questions about how to participate in Pokémon Go Fest 2020 while social distancing? Got any tips for fellow Trainers? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out our Complete Pokédex, as well as our many Pokémon Go guides so you too can become a Pokémon Master!

Casian Holly

Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.