As Safari Zone came to Korea, in Goyang city, thousands of eager Pokemon GO players attended the event in person from the first day. As a Pokemon GO player myself, I went to explore what Niantic had prepared for the first-ever offline event in Korea. There, I met Kaori Saito, a member of Niantic and had a chance to listen to her thoughts about the event and how it was being able to hold offline events again.
It’s the first time Safari Zone is being held in Korea. You selected Goyang city - what was the reason?
Niantic always wants people to go out and explore the “real world” with friends. Pokemon GO also has that mission. To do so, we wanted to have a place where people can enjoy being outside too. We talked to so many different cities. Korea has been an important market, but we haven’t had a big event like this in Korea yet. Goyang city reached out to us, and this city clearly has a nice park. It also has nice culture and history as well, so we decided to hold our event here.
Goyang city is famous for its flower festival. That seems to have been implemented properly into the event. How was the process?
When we were talking with Goyang city, we learned about the flower festival. We thought it would make sense to bring the flower Pokemon here. That’s how it all started.
The event will be held from Friday through Sunday. There will be a lot of visitors. What do you hope the visitors would enjoy at this event?
More than anything, we want them to enjoy the game. A lot of the people would be here with their friends and family. It’ll be a good opportunity for them to have fun with each other over the weekend. Also, especially for the people from outside of Goyang city, we hope they know and learn about this city. Third, even with people who live here, some don’t come out every day to see what’s happening in their neighborhood. It will be a good chance for them to rediscover the park and this area.
In the past few years, due to the pandemic, Pokemon GO didn’t have many offline events for a while. Now recently, you had GO Fests in Berlin, Seattle, and Sapporo. Are there more coming up?
This month, we have Korea. Next month, it’s Taiwan, and in November, we have Singapore. At the moment, we have two more coming up this year.
I heard tens of thousands came to the GO Fests. How many people do you expect to come to Goyang and enjoy the event?
We can’t disclose a specific number for this event yet, but there were some things to consider. First is that we need to be careful about COVID-19 — we don’t want too many people in one place. We wanted to be sure that the people would be comfortable playing the game. Based on these ideas, Goyang city and Niantic agreed that we would have a large number of people filling up the park. We already have thousands of people, so we’re very happy about it.
Pokemon GO went much indoors, but it’s coming back outside now that the pandemic is relieved compared to before. What are your expectations for the game and the users in the future?
Again, Niantic wants people to go out and explore the “real world”. There are so many other games that people can play at home already. We wanted to have a different one. Based on this idea, during COVID, we wanted to have the players feel comfortable, so we changed the game a little bit.
However, now it’s getting easier for the players to come back outside. We want the people to go out again — especially after these two years, people didn’t walk much. [Laughs] We’re encouraging people to walk outside more. We’re having GO Fest and Safari Zone, and we’re back to normal now. We’d like to keep thinking about what makes people feel excited to go out. Based on that idea, we want to keep changing the game.
What future updates can we expect?
[Laughs] We actually have so many plans going on that we cannot share yet. We also waited two years, too, you know. We’re hoping to share that with you shortly in the future.
Any comments you’d like to share with the Pokemon GO fans?
First, we appreciate that you play our game so much. The team is very thrilled that we’re finally having this event in Korea. We had talked about it, but it didn’t happen until now. We’d love to hear more opinions from the players here, too — thoughts about what makes them happier playing Pokemon GO? Obviously, we want the fans to enjoy this event, but at the same time, we hope we can get more feedback so that we can make the game more enjoyable.