The Final Spell – Goodbye, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Back in Fall 2021, Niantic and WB Games announced that they would be shutting Harry Potter: Wizards Unite down on January 31st, 2022. While the last months of the game saw endless delays and cancellations, one thing actually did happen as planned was the end. On January 31st, 2022 at 12:01 AM local time, I returned my final Foundable. I was surprised to see the daily tasks delivered and, waiting for a The Sopranos-esque cut to black, I claimed my reward. The screen glitched out and the app shut down. I opened it back up again, greeted with a message that all will now see if they attempt to open the app. I have a few things I'd like to say, as I've been covering Harry Potter: Wizards Unite for nearly my entire time here at Bleeding Cool, but one thing I won't be is critical about the final month. One thing I've been thinking about is that even in the cold clutches of a corporation wanting to make money, a game like this that has a narrative and character arcs and beautiful art is ultimately created by artists. Artists who didn't want this game to end as much if not more than us, the players. So I'll let my one little barb about the delays be the end of that, because what I want to say is simply… I'm going to miss Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
When Hagrid popped up as my first Foundable on launch night, I was confused as I returned it. I liked the mechanics but I found it convoluted in its detail, with the simplicity of Pokémon GO ushering Pokémon into the real world quite appealing to me. I couldn't grasp why Hagrid was in my room and what the significance of "Returning" him was, because I didn't know that I was about to embark not on a personal journey through the real world like in Pokémon GO, but rather a structured narrative that sees J. K. Rowling's Wizarding World push into our reality. It would be our job, I would learn when I returned to the game, to stop that from happening. This game thought big. It understood, or at least hoped, that its audience wanted to take part in a story. To build something together.
And now, the narrative is over. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has been rendered unplayable. The storyline wrapped up, newly created characters like Constance Pickering will likely never be referenced again, and whatever progress made is done. Mischief managed.
Forget the struggles, forget why it's ending, forget all of that for now. HPWU was a beautiful game that was part AR photography, part novel, part puzzle, and part collection challenge. It dared to take chances with established characters like Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. It explored ideas of morality both present and the books and beyond, asking hard questions about separating the Wizarding World and the Muggle world without giving any easy answers. It invited the player into the fold and never talked down to them. Most of all?
It was fun.
I'll miss it.