Niantic Inc. saw runaway success with the launch of Pokemon Go in 2016, which sparked a summer of excitement to enter the world of Pokemon. However, technical issues caused the AR game changer to fizzle out, leaving it with a skeleton of its former player base. Even as the game is still being updated with new features today, the initial promise of escaping into the world of Pokemon is gone.
The company is now aiming to replicate that success with another big-budget intellectual property. Niantic is giving the world of Harry Potter an AR makeover, which is set to be released as Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Pre-registrations for the app are open on the Google Play Store, indicating the launch is very close indeed.
Pokemon Go and Ingress, both of Niantic’s previous offerings, have been wildly popular in India, with multiple AR-focused meetups and events taking place across the country. As pre-registrations are open for Indian audiences as well, it is almost confirmed that this will not be a repeat of Pokemon Go’s delayed India launch.
Here’s all we know about the wizarding world in AR, and how the successes and pitfalls of Pokemon Go have been learnt from.
Bringing The Ministry Of Magic To The Real World
The plot setting of the game is that the players work for the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, where they are tasked with preventing exposure of the Wizarding World. This is currently at risk due to unknown forces known as ‘The Calamity’, which has caused multiple ‘Foundables’ to appear in the real world.
The basis of the game is the same, with players walking around in real life looking to find what are known as ‘Traces’. Whenever a Foundable event is nearby, a Trace appears on the ground in the map. Walking close to the Trace triggers an Augmented Reality play experience.
Players are then required to trace a symbol on their screen, thus dispelling the creature or magical object on the screen, which are known as ‘Confoundables’.
At the beginning, users can create their avatar, set their house affiliation, and customize their wand. They will also be required to pick from 3 professions, namely Auror, Magizoologist or Professor. Reportedly, these 3 professions have different strengths and weaknesses that encourage teamwork across professions.
So far, the game seems similar to Pokemon Go in terms of its premise and in-game activities. However, Niantic seems to have learnt from their mistakes, adding a host of additional features to increase retention and engagement.
The Vision Of A “Multi-Year Narrative Arc”
In their Google Play listing, Niantic states, “A deep, multi-year narrative arc will have players solving various mysteries”. This implies that there are multiple features to increase game retention. Even the launch lineup of features seems to suggest that the game will be a lot more fleshed out than Pokemon Go at launch.
For example, developers have announced that regular buildings will turn into Fortresses, Inns and Greenhouses, where Pokemon Go only had gyms. It also creates a more complete game environment for players.
Collaboration plays a heavier role than it did in Pokemon Go, as users are required to engage in collaborative combat challenges in Fortresses as a part of a team. This would create an environment similar to the raid bosses in Pokemon.
Inns are used to recharge the player’s magic powers, which are used to cast spells. This incentivizes users to go out to Inns and recharge it to play the game more. The purposes of greenhouses are to provide a place to collect ingredients for a minigame.
The game also adds other items to pick up, with the first mini-game announced for the game being creating potions which will help the user in their wizarding world adventures. The items can be affected by factors such as weather, geolocation, natural phenomena, time of day, even phases of the moon.
The AR factor is also set to amp up, as the developers announced a VR-like experience that can be had with the app. This is done by discovering Portkeys, which open up a new location that enables a 360-degree view of locations in the wizarding world, such as Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
Marginal Improvements For A Blockbuster Launch?
Notwithstanding improvements to the game itself, 3 years operating Pokemon Go must have given Niantic something to work on to make the game better. This includes getting better servers to handle the initial pull of popularity when the game launches, which was a problem that Pokemon Go faced extensively.
Users also complained about the uniformity of Pokemon after the initial rush and started leaving due to it. This seems to be remedied when looking at launch footage, with Niantic adding ergonomic and natural additions to the game world. It is also possible that the game will solve issues with individuals cheating.
All in all, the game looks to be the next step in AR experiences in the palm of almost everyone’s hands.
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I am an AI enthusiast and love keeping up with the latest events in the space. I love video games and pizza.