I'm The Only Person Playing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite In My Area

The first week that Pokémon GO came out, it was all my friends wanted to do or talk about, and we weren’t the only ones. Whenever I went on a jog around my neighbourhood, I’d run into people of all ages and backgrounds at every PokéStop and gym on my journey.

I expected the same thing to happen last night with Pokémon GO developer Niantic’s latest location-based augmented reality game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. It didn’t.

I installed Wizards Unite on my phone yesterday afternoon and, that night, I went for a run around my neighbourhood to play the game. Since I still play Pokémon GO, I could tell right away that Wizards Unite is using a lot of the same location data.

The petrol station right near my house, for example, is a gym in Pokémon GO and now also a chamber in Wizards Unite. In other words, it’s a place where I can battle baddies in either game.

Next to that petrol station, there are two PokéStops in Pokémon GO, and in Wizards Unite, those same two PokéStops have become inns, which are locations where I can eat food to recharge.

I expected those PokéStops — er, inns — to be crowded with people last night, the same way they were at Pokémon GO’s launch. But no one was out playing the game at all, at least not in my neighbourhood.

I’ve gotta admit, I felt disappointed. I figured that if any property could overtake Pokémon, it had to be Harry Potter. Both Pokémon and Harry Potter became huge cultural phenomena in the late 1990s and 2000s.

Then again, Pokémon started out as a video game, and the idea of travelling around to real-world locations to pretend to catch Pokémon is fulfilling the exact fantasy presented in those games. Harry Potter isn’t quite as directly translatable.

With Wizards Unite, the developers at Niantic and Warner Bros. have done their best to create a Pokémon-esque scenario, except with wizard stuff. The game has players searching for Confoundables, cursed beings that have been mucking about with the time stream and have been time-displacing people, objects and animals from the original Harry Potter books.

For example, last night I had to cast spells on a huge glass bottle that had imprisoned Professor Snape. Once I nuked the bottle (the Confoundable), good old Snape (the Foundable) was free to be whisked back to his original timeline.

The logic of this is silly, but casting spells is a lot more fun than tossing Pokéballs. Rather than just tap the screen, you have to perform unique movements for each situation, and they can actually be delightfully difficult to do.

For example, you might have to trace over the screen in a Z motion, or a circle with a line through it, or any number of other shapes that must be traced quickly and precisely to succeed.

Wizards Unite also has a lot more going on under the hood than Pokémon GO did at launch.

It doesn’t yet have the “adventure sync” feature that Pokémon GO players can now use to let the app count their steps even when it isn’t open (the pedometer feature plays a big part in unlocking rewards, both in Pokémon GO and Wizards Unite). But it does have a lot more game than Pokémon GO ever had.

You can collect ingredients for potions, which you then brew in a cauldron. You can battle dark wizards and other unsavoury creatures, and the battle system is a lot more complex than Pokémon GO’s “tap the screen as fast as you can”.

Best of all, Wizards Unite has an actual narrative; adult versions of Harry and Hermione are there along with some new characters to invite you, the player, into solving the big mystery of how the Confoundables started popping up.

So far, Wizards Unite just seems like a better and more interesting game.

That’s why it’s too bad that I’m the only one playing. Wizards Unite works fine as a single-player experience, but part of Pokémon GO’s charm is in taking on gyms with total strangers, or even just making conversation at PokéStops with people about what they have and haven’t caught yet.

Maybe that will change. It seems as though many people don’t know that Wizards Unite exists yet, after this week’s unceremonious surprise launch. Plus, Pokémon GO had the benefit of being the first game of its kind, while Wizards Unite is just another Pokémon GO game. Except it’s also actually good. I hope the rest of my neighbourhood figures that out soon.


Comments

    I keep imagining this scenario..

    Pokemon Go player: "You guys going to try and take over my Gym?"
    Wizards Unite player: "No I'm trying to take over this fortress"
    Minecraft player: "I'm building a fortress that totally doesn't look like a penis"
    Ingress player: "I'm capturing.."
    Everyone else: "Nobody cares!!"

      Corporation "The ad revenue from this new population herding technique is excellent"

      I wonder if MS bought the Ingress location data for Minecraft World or if the game even needs it.

        Good question.
        It would be the easiest route but I don't doubt that MS would have more than enough data to build their own and couple it with player submissions much like Ingress.

        I wouldn't mind them using the loc data from Ingress:GO though, despite my teasing there was clearly a massive following in my area so when Pokemon GO dropped the amount of points and gyms put a lot of major city centres to shame.

    I play a lot of Pokemon Go, and love Harry Potter, so I thought it would be great.
    But it's not.
    There are almost no players, the concept is really dull collecting arbitrary artefacts, and almost no use of the characters you know and love.

    The mechanics are okay, but it is just not engaging. I played it for the last month, but stopped in the last few days and don't think I'll go back to it.

      I feel like it uses too much of "the characters you know and love"
      I was looking for something that kinda sorta lets me exist in the wizarding world, but when the very first thing I had to do was rescue Hagrid at my local car wash, I was immediately turned off.

    Minecraft is going to dominate this genre when it comes out I reckon. Harry Potter has its devotees but there has been zero publicity about this game, when the Minecraft Earth trailer dropped the local (Brisbane) news started running stories about the next big game after Pokemon GO!

    Last edited 22/06/19 1:13 pm

    I would have thought the crossover of people who might play both WU and PoGo would be quite high, and for me I just don’t have the time to play both (I struggle to keep up with PoGo).

    It just feels...not really Harry Potter.

    For a start, the biggest irk to me are the names 'Confoundables' and 'Findables'. Surely they could have come up with something a hell of a lot less lazy sounding.
    "What do we name the things they find?"
    "Er..Find..ables."

    Also as Maddy said, the logic is silly. Why is Snape of all things trapped inside a glass bottle?

    And yes, it has a lot more features but it honestly just feels like a lot more avenues for micro-transactions than anything that's actually fun. Splitting the basic Pokestop/Gym into Inns and Fortresses is fine, but why then add a third, Greenhouses? It just feels overly complex.

    I feel it's like Pokemon is Mario Kart. Easy to pick up and play, some items to add interest to the mix and hidden depth (Drifting, drafting) and over time added more complex features (Car parts with stats) while HP:Go is something akin to Gran Turismo.

    I had this kind of feeling when Pokemon Go launched and it was very clearly built on the same map as Ingress, except Pokemon Go was more popular and much worse. (Not that Ingress is that great, mind.) Part of the novelty was seeing so many more people around me playing, but the game itself was... ehhhhh.

    I gave up on it.

    After its launch here in Australia, I played pretty heavily for ~3 weeks, really enjoying it... before realising I really wasn't finding it that interesting any more.

    I'm not sure if it's the fact I've become so used to Pokemon Go with my Gotcha doing so much auto-catching when I'm busy doing other things, and adventure sync tracking steps when PoGo is closed, etc, and *not* having that in HP:WU making it feel like much more work, or too time-consuming.

    I told myself at the time I quit that I may return in the future if more content is added etc, but then I also feel like it's missing that crucial aspect PoGo has where what you catch, you can actually *use* for something - you can battle with the pokemon you catch, and trade them with friends for potentially better versions (ie lucky, or higher IV), etc. In HP:WU however, all you're really doing is filling the equivalent of the pokedex, and even when you do fill it, you can 'prestige' it to wipe its contents clean and start again, requiring more catches of the same creatures to fill the 'dex' entry, albeit gaining more XP when you do... but so what?

    As I say, I may return one day, but when I think of it, I don't really miss it. Still religiously playing PoGo though.

    Last edited 24/06/19 8:16 am

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