Harry Potter: Wizards Unite From Niantic Deserves Another Shot

It seemed that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Niantic's AR game based on J. K. Rowling's iconic fantasy series, was destined to take over the world the same way that Pokémon GO did in the summer of 2016. However, that vision for a real-life Wizarding World of players of all ages gathering outside to cast spells and brew potions quickly fizzled when the game, upon its summer 2019 release, failed to create a cultural phenomenon. Now, while Pokémon GO continues to grow as one of the most profitable mobile games, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite seems to be forgotten. There are many reasons why the game didn't connect with as many players as Pokémon GO, but there's much more to the game than meets the eye when first opening it up. Here's why this magical mobile game may deserve a second chance.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite deserves another shot. Credit: Niantic
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite deserves another shot. Credit: Niantic

It may be the comparisons to Pokémon GO that doomed Harry Potter: Wizards Unite from the start. Pokémon GO is a simple, user-friendly game that only became more complicated years after it had been out. At its introduction and at the height of the cultural phenomenon, it had very few species compared to now, all of which were of the iconic and recognizable first Generation of Pokémon. Most of all, it was clear why Pokémon were appearing to people… they were Pokémon, which were meant to be found in the wild. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, on the other hand, introduced a game that looked similar but was far more complicated. To players speeding through the text, as players do, it wasn't nearly as natural to see characters from the beloved book series tied up in your bathroom right next to a magical creature caught in a whirlwind. Instead of adding these characters to an inventory, these characters and items, referred to as "Foundables," were put as images into a Registry, with more than one needed to be added to fully unlock the image. With tons of potion ingredients strewn across the map as well, it was overwhelming to new players, to say the least.

However, a year later, picking up Harry Potter: Wizards Unite doesn't create that same frustrating experience of puzzlement. The game's greatest sin wasn't that it randomly featured Luna Lovegood and seven other magical Foundables in your kitchen with no explanation. Its sin was that it expected its player base to come to the game ready for a literary experience. When reading the tasks in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, everything becomes clear. The characters on the map are called Foundables, and they are the fallout of a mystical event known as the Calamity. The Calamity scattered memories, artifacts, and characters from the Wizarding World, from all through time, in the real world… which explains why characters from all different times are seen. It is the player's objective to return these Foundables and, when they have been completely returned, their image will be placable in that player's Registry.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite deserves another shot. Credit: Niantic
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite deserves another shot. Credit: Niantic

The training session offers even more text which, to the casual player, will likely be something to skip through. However, what I personally discovered as a Harry Potter fan returning to the game after giving up, is that the reason I missed out on the game's fun was that I was avoiding doing what Harry Potter got me to do in the first place: reading. Reading all of the texts in the tasks and training made the game feel more immersive, adding to the fun of brewing potions, doing wizarding challenges, and returning Foundables.

The game is made for readers. Of course it is. It's those comparisons to Pokémon GO, which is more adventure-based, that made it seem like a failed re-skin of that game. It's a completely different experience, though, and while it's never going to be the next Pokémon, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite deserves a second chance to charm its fans. There's much more to the game than meets the eye if you just take a closer look.

About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.