Chicago Pokémon Go festival kicks off with fans unable to log in

The augmented reality mobile game "Pokemon Go" by Nintendo is shown on a smartphone screen in this photo illustration taken in Palm Springs, Calif., on July 11, 2016.


Last Updated Jul 23, 2017 5:46 PM EDT

CHICAGO -- A major Pokémon Go festival in Chicago Saturday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the virtual game went badly awry when technical glitches prevented many fans from logging on.

The problems forced Niantic Inc., the developer of the wildly popular augmented reality game, to issue a statement saying everyone who registered for the event would get a full refund for the $20 tickets and $100 in credits for use of the app.]

Niantic CEO John Hanke was booed when he took the stage at Chicago's Grant Park to address the thousands of frustrated Pokemon enthusiasts.

Some in attendance had paid as much as $400 online for the tickets, which sold out within minutes of their June release. While no official attendance figures were available, organizers had planned for as many as 20,000 Pokemon players and "trainers" at the festival billed by Niantic as the first official anniversary event in the world.

Mark Haberkorn of Chicago, a member of the Official Pokémon Go 40 Club, an international online community of high-level players, said he started waiting in line for the opening of the festival at 6 a.m.

"The excitement has just been drastically minimized because of what we've experienced today," Haberkorn told the Chicago Tribune.

"They promised up wifi towers, they promised us all types of things and we come here and we're getting nothing. It's been terrible," Bobby Pegram, who drove from Virginia, told CBS Chicago.

One couple told CBS Chicago they spend over $1,000 for plane tickets, a hotel and a babysitter for the weekend.

Late in the day, Niantic's Chief Marketing Officer Mike Quigley tried to placate irritated players by announcing that everyone who scanned a code when they entered the park would automatically receive the Legendary Pokémon Lugia, a rare and powerful creature difficult to defeat in virtual battle and prized by Pokémon enthusiasts.

Niantic says Pokémon Go has been downloaded 750 million times since it was launched. The augmented reality game that uses GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures was introduced in the United States in July 2016.

Editor's Note: In a previous story, The Associated Press misidentified one of the attendees as John Haberkorn. His name is Mark Haberkorn. This has been corrected.