Harry Potter Wizards Unite: after Pokemon Go, here’s another augmented-reality videogame

Niantic tries it again, with a game that follows the very same mechanics of its predecessor and has the aim of repeating its major success

 

Niantic, the software development firm behind the 2016 smash hit Pokemon Go, tries it again.

Their latest creation is another mobile video game, for iOS and Android, in augmented reality, inspired to a well-loved past book and movie franchise: Harry Potter Wizards Unite.

The concept behind this game is exactly the same we have already seen in Pokemon Go: superimposing virtual, colourful and cartoony elements onto the real world, rebuilt thanks to Google mapping.

The player (who plays the role of a new recruit within the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, to help solve a mystery) again has to venture and wonder around the cities, looking for items to be randomly found at real-world locations, which he can see through his phone’s camera as he moves around, and then to battle and cooperate with other players to get rarer items.

Among those virtual items are also the so-called Foundables, which are magical characters or creatures who threaten the game’s world.

It is up to the player to set them free, by casting spells or using specially crafted potions.

This brief summary already shows how this game is not only much more visually appealing, but also richer in actions compared to his predecessor Pokemon Go.

In fact, the creators have put a lot of work into creating the plot for the game: “You see all your favourite characters and artefacts, whether it’s the Sorting Hat, or Buckbeak, or whether it’s Harry himself or Newt Scamander,” said Mr Jonathan Knight, studio head of Warner Bros Games San Francisco.

“And there’s also a crafting game where you’re collecting potion ingredients and creating potions and using them to be a better wizard”.

 

A very complex videogame… maybe even too much

This complex structure, though, also has a few downsides. Not only the risk of turning off some players, but also the feeling that the story is just an elaborate excuse to adapt a gameplay built for Pokemon Go to the very different universe of Harry Potter, where collecting items and characters has never been at the core of the story.

The prestigious Forbes magazine’s website went on to reject not the execution, but the concept itself for Harry Potter Wizards Unite:

“And yet overall, the game is just not very good because of its central concept, one that is much harder to wrap your head around than the ease of seeing Pokémon, catching Pokémon in Pokémon Go.

The problem with Wizards Unite is that Niantic wanted to use the same mechanics that made Go a hit and forced players to traverse the world, even though that has… never really been what Harry Potter’s been about at all”.

The game suffered the very same, rather lukewarm, reception also from the audience, and didn’t manage to take off with quite as much momentum as Pokemon Go.

Two weeks after its official launch (on the 21st of June), Wizards Unite still ranks at number 52 in the iOS App Store, far below Pokemon Go, which still sits at number seven, despite having been available for much longer.

But it’s still too early to label it as a fiasco, like so many media outlets already did. The new Harry Potter game is still at the beginning of its life cycle, and Niantic itself has said that it has a multi-year storyline in store, in order to achieve a long-term steady growth.

In any case, these teething problems do not in any way spoil the extreme attention to the visual and graphic appeal that characterizes Harry Potter Wizards Unite.