HARRY POTTER: WIZARDS UNITE – THE NEW AUGMENTED REALITY GAME

The application developed by Niantic in partnership with Warner Bros is the new step towards transmedia storytelling.

It appeared to have all finished. Evil had been conquered and the characters that we loved throughout the entire cinematographic saga could finally enjoy a quiet life away from dire threats inside the world of magic. But no. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not only in danger, it also needs huge support from game users all over the world. In fact, from 21st June Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the new augmented reality application devised and created by Niantic, the company that also brought us the global phenomenon Pokemon Go, has been available on mobile devices.

Even if we just stop at the numbers (640 million downloads and over 2.5 billion dollars earned from its official website), talking of success would be rather an understatement. But the production of this new programme does, however, have its own very respectable fandom. One only has to think of the narrative universe that has been created, bit by bit, starting with the issue of the first book, The Philosopher’s Stone back in 1997. Since then, J.K. Rowling’s world has spread like wildfire, driven by a storytelling that immediately broke down all kinds of boundaries, not just geographical but, above all, in terms of media. Among the many examples to bear in mind is that Harry Potter never stopped at the standard literary distribution but has continued to filter into the most varied sectors with the aim of giving its readers an exclusive experience. In addition to the movie franchise and the theatre play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, various other stories have, in fact, been published that reveal even more details about Harry Potter’s magical and extraordinary world, such as Quidditch Through the Ages, The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Fantastic Beasts and where to find them. In recent years, the latter publication has been the focus of a project for five feature-length movies, again produced by Warner Bros, two of which have already been released into the cinemas, meeting with excellent public approval. Lastly, for those who are absolutely incapable of taking their minds off the Wizarding World, J.K. Rowling has provided the most loyal users with Pottermore, a space in which to delve further into the story’s books and interact with Hogwarts characters through games and new interactive texts. The latest step towards an increasingly more transmedia storytelling is this new game which aims to go beyond the story that concluded with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

As soon as the application is installed, the user finds himself in front of young Constance Pickering, a member of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, who, together with other characters, like Hermione Granger, asks everyone to undertake a special mission: to fight against Calamity. Everything that they held most dear has practically been lost after the Statute of Secrecy, which kept the veil between the magic and muggle worlds intact, has been threatened. Later, Harry Potter himself, now an Auror at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, will give a detailed explanation of each user’s task. Armed with the virtual map viewable on a smartphone, the user will set off in search of Foundables, which can be objects or even figures from the Wizarding World. Calamity (by name and fact) is drastically jeopardizing the stability of the Statute. The barriers no longer appear to be as secure, not for the wizards nor for the Muggles themselves who, up until that point, have lived without this chaotic magic, called “The Registry”, having ever disturbed the balance between the two worlds. As the game proceeds, players can also choose which house they want to belong to (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff), as well as their profession. On the basis of these choices, the abilities that each player has to develop during the game change and will involve, as in Pokemon Go, zones (Greenhouses, Inns and Castles) in which to use their powers and take on multi-player challenges. In short, in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, it is better to arm oneself with a good quality wand and, even more importantly, learn how to say the spells correctly, starting from stressing the right syllable. Isn’t that right, Ron?