Harry Potter Wizards Unite: More than just a Pokémon Go copycat?



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Over a month has passed since the release of Niantic and Warner Bros’ joint mobile game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (HPWU). In this post, we take a look to see how things could play out for Niantic’s latest blockbuster.

Despite garnering mixed reviews from users and mobile game critics, the Harry Potter IP-based title has grossed over $5million in worldwide revenue from 14.6 million installs in the four weeks since its international rollout. Impressive? Certainly. That said, HPWU has not taken the world by storm quite like Niantic’s previous location-based AR title, Pokémon Go.

Back in 2016, we all saw Pokémon Go arrive on mobile and take off like wildfire, generating $300 million and a whopping 176 million downloads in its first month. And this is despite problems with servers collapsing under the crushing weight of users all signing up for the game at once. Millions of people around the world were seemingly addicted to the game, with players spending more time on it than Facebook. To this day, Pokémon Go remains an unstoppable juggernaut, with total downloads for the app surpassing 1 billion three years after its initial release.

It is clear that Niantic had hoped on inspiring the same kind of fervour with HPWU. The world-spanning blockbuster franchise of Harry Potter extends far beyond the words in JK Rowling’s books. Spawning multiple movies, theme parks, video games and a play, Harry Potter has vaulted well over $25 billion over the past two decades.

Just like Pokémon Go, HPWU layers its universe on top of the real world, combining location-based journeying and augmented reality (AR) technology. The game certainly features more AR elements than Pokémon GO and has been widely praised for its stunning visuals. However, our humble take on the matter is that Wizards Unite is unlikely to surpass the latter in terms of revenue or downloads.

Pokémon Go’s phenomenal success is largely due to the nature of the game, which involves the player walking around, discovering and collecting Pokémon. Catching and collecting Pokemon is the DNA of the franchise and it was a natural adaptation to get people to walk around in the real world and do the same thing. Many players have complained that shoehorning that gameplay in Harry Potter makes little sense. The feedback so far has predominantly been that Wizards Unite is a half-baked effort from Niantic to leverage the valuable Harry Potter IP and give it ‘the Pokémon Go’ treatment - expecting success based on the brand name alone.

Another reason that HPWU may not be experiencing the desired momentum is that while Augmented Reality/Geolocation-based mobile games were a novel idea back in 2016, today the app stores are abuzz with Pokémon Go clones such as Jurassic World Alive, Ghostbusters World and even a Garfield Go game. Additionally, Pokémon benefits from an original fanbase comprising of gamers, instantly giving it access to a much larger pool of potential players.

Of course, HPWU is by no means a failure and given that it has been just over a month since its release, we still don’t know what additions Niantic will be offering to keep the game feeling fresh. It is clear however that Niantic has actively endeavoured on learning from Pokémon GO’s successes and early stutters. To this day, the main criticism of Pokémon Go remains its lack of content and overly simple formula. Wizards Untie on the other hand is rich in detail and overloaded with challenges, events, and mysteries to solve.

While this sheer volume of content may be enough to incentivise extreme Potterheads to fire up the app everyday, for Niantic, there are still a few more wrinkles that need ironing for the game to pique the interest of the masses.