According to its former Electronic Arts director of product marketing, Kim Salzer, EA almost made an MMO set in the Harry Potter universe. The project, which reached an internal beta stage during Salzer’s tenure from 2000-2003, was reportedly scrapped due to “changes” within the publisher and doubts the success of the Harry Potter brand could continue. Salzer was recently interviewed by The Real Brandolorian, during which the topic of EA’s cancelled projects and Harry Potter came up.
Imagine a Harry Potter MMO…
It almost happened but #EA cancelled it. They did the research and even a beta version of the game, but didn’t think Harry Potter was going to be around more than a few years.#harrypotter #hogwarts #voldemort #mmo #metaverse #multiverse pic.twitter.com/bt5u6YQ2oe
— OGL: Original Gamer Life (@OGLifeOGL) December 22, 2021
“A big one for me, because I was so personally involved in it and it’s such a huge IP that has lived on, is an online massively multiplayer game for Harry Potter,” Salzer says, “We did all the research, we had the beta built out.” According to Salzer, the game would’ve used an “online/offline” model where players would be mailed physical prizes that coincided with their in-game achievements. Perhaps if you defeated Peter Pettigrew, they would deliver you the carcass of a horrifying rat-man. Wouldn’t that be magical?
But if the game had been heavily researched and the team had even built a working beta, why was it cancelled? Salzer explains, “EA was going through some changes at that time, and they just didn’t know, or believe enough, that that IP would have a shelf life longer than a year or two.” Considering both the fourth novel, The Goblet of Fire, and the film franchise both arrived in 2001, this assumption that Harry Potter couldn’t retain its relevancy was a real misfire. Even with the controversy around transphobic comments made by the author of the Harry Potter series, the franchise remains widely popular to this day.
While EA held the rights to make games in the Harry Potter universe at the time, the reigns have long since passed to Warner Bros. who now make Harry Potter games through a dedicated studio, Portkey Games. To date, Portkey has produced Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, a mobile game that is Tom Riddle-d with micro-transactions.
Portkey Games is also responsible for the upcoming 2022 release Hogwarts Legacy, an open-world action RPG set in the Wizarding World before the events of the main Harry Potter story. It might be good, but will they send a melted Freddo Frog to my home address if I buy a magical chocolate frog from the trolley lady on the wizard train? Maybe not.
With MMO’s back on the gaming radar due to the pandemic, perhaps we’ll hear about a new Harry Potter MMO in the future.