[SDCC 2016] The awkwardness of the “Pokémon GO” Hall H panel

Nerd host extraordinaire Chris Hardwick was on-hand to moderate the Pokémon GO panel, as he seemingly lives in Hall H.

Nerd host extraordinaire Chris Hardwick was on-hand to moderate the Pokémon GO panel, as he seemingly lives in Hall H.

Originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon, San Diego Comic-Con’s Pokémon GO panel was moved to Sunday afternoon in Hall H, which definitely made its rumblings throughout the convention.

If you’re unfamiliar with the pop culture and nerd phenomenon that is San Diego Comic-Con, here’s the gist with regards to panels.  Aside from just the action happening in the main exhibit hall, every hour of every day is dedicated to the panels that happen in the function rooms within the convention center.  Obviously, some panels are bigger than others.  For example, a Marvel Studios presentation would definitely have a greater turnout than a panel about starting your own comic book store.

“Re-Imagining Reality: Bringing Games into the Real World with Ingress and Pokémon Go” was originally supposed to take place in Room 25ABC, a room that holds a little less than 500 people.

For Pokémon GO?  Obviously, that’s a laughable number.

Given its insane amount of popularity, Comic-Con International ended up moving the panel up to Hall H, the San Diego Convention Center’s largest room known for its Hollywood blockbuster panels featuring the likes of Warner Bros. or Marvel Studios.

That caused a stir, a stir that turned into rumors.

“I heard that they’re going to release an exclusive legendary Pokémon,” said Austin Toloza, second-time Con-goer from California.

While any industry professional would take that with a grain of salt, something like that happening wasn’t impossible.

After all, Hall H has done more than its fair share when it comes to getting fans excited, and usually that comes in the form of gifts or announcements only SDCC’s Hall H attendees are treated to.

Crazier things have happened at Hall H, so it's not like an exclusive Pokémon was out of the question...

Crazier things have happened at Hall H, so it’s not like an exclusive Pokémon was out of the question…

That was far from reality and was definitely quite the re-imagining of it.

The program even said the panel would “examine the past, present and future of extending games beyond the screen and re-imagining reality through the lens of Ingress and Pokémon GO” and that’s exactly what happened.

Moderated by Chris Hardwick, who offered his services to moderate the panel as soon as he heard about the panel’s new schedule, the panel featured some discussion with Niantic founder John Hanke, and while they primarily discussed the history surrounding the company leading up to the development of Ingress and now Pokémon GO, he did confirm some news that was speculated about for quite a while.

The first of which is the fact that the developers are working on the ability to allow players to trade Pokémon with other players.  In addition, new features and enhancements will be added to the game’s PokéStops and Pokémon gyms.  Future releases will also include more Pokémon, and Hanke also mentioned the fact that there are still more Easter eggs to be uncovered aside from just “the Eevee trick.”

Of course, being a panel, the floor was open to questions, and a lot of them were great despite the lack of a real answer.

A giggling youth asked when trading was going to be available, which we didn’t get a date for.

The audience itself asked about the “footstep glitch” which has made it harder for virtually all users to track nearby Pokémon because the “nearby” feature hasn’t been worked for the last two weeks.  Again, Hanke said Niantic was aware of the situation and it’s being worked on.

The first person who wasn’t a toddler that asked a question made sure he represented Team Valor hard, causing a raucous in the room, and then proceeded to ask about whether or not there’d be a legendary Pokémon in the room.

Hanke paused and looked even more flustered than he had looked the entire panel and continued to explain that some of these things are still in the works.

In other words, no.

Hardwick even backed Hanke up, reminding what seemed like a disappointed room filled with thousands of fans that the game has literally just came out.  In addition to this, as stated here and in SmashPad’s review, there are still some bugs and issues that need to be fixed.

But what there anything new shown?

The answer came in the form of unveiling each team’s respective leader pictured below.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 5.21.23 PM

Representing Team Valor is Candela, Blanche for Team Mystic, and Spark for the silent but deadly Team Instinct. I hope my allegiance isn’t too obvious.

Hanke said your alignments with whichever team you’re a part of definitely matters and will affect the game in the future. He didn’t say more other than that, so in regards to what each of these “Team Leaders” represent, we can’t answer that.

At the end of panel, I couldn’t help but feel for John Hanke.  Obviously, despite its problems, Pokémon GO is a huge success, but where is he going to take it?  Like every other SDCC attendee, Hanke looked incredibly tired, but the one thing I took from his mannerisms no matter how monotone they were was the fact that he always acknowledged his team for the job they’re doing.

Considering the fact that Pokémon is once again a global phenomenon with Nintendo hardly pulling any reins, it’s easy to see that Niantic is doing a heck of a job.  We just need to see them really make use of what resources they can to continue to put up with the demands of the app’s users.

In fact, when I was sitting in the panel… this happened.

For more from SDCC 2016, check out SmashPad’s SDCC hub here.