Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Closing Down in January

The game returns to where the IP came from: space.

A few years ago, I was invited to Niantic’s offices to preview the reveal of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a new game from the developers of Pokemon Go. Considering that, for a brief and bright moment, Pokemon Go essentially took over the world, there was a lot of anticipation for a Harry Potter-themed follow-up learning all the lessons from what Pokemon Go didn’t get quite right. Given the right execution, it was feasible that Wizards Unite could become an even bigger success, an optimistic thought expressed to me by several of the key Niantic and Warner Bros. employees demoing the game to me.

Fast-forward several years later and Niantic and WB have announced that Wizards Unite will be closed down on January 31, 2022.

It won’t just be closed down, they are essentially nuking the game from any availability whatsoever. The mobile game, which pitted players versus Dementors and Death Eaters and the like when opening the app near landmarks, was very similar to Pokemon Go in concept where it used Niantic’s GPS data to create an augmented reality world. Since that gameplay is inherently based on being online, Wizards Unite will be unplayable from the end of January on. The game will be removed from stores next month and even people with the game on their accounts will not be able to redownload it. Which, again, it’s unplayable so I get it.

This isn’t going to come as a shock at this point in the story, but Wizards Unite was not the success that Niantic and Warner Bros. were hoping it would be. WB even created an entirely new label, Portkey Games, to manage and leverage the Harry Potter brand starting with Wizards Unite. Outside of a few smaller titles and the upcoming-but-oft-hidden Hogwards Legacy game, Portkey hasn’t exactly been busy.

Wizards Unite was, in early reviews, considered entirely too derivative of Pokemon Go but not in the ways that made that game accessible to millions. While the monster-catching game could be playable with one hand, Wizards Unite required two, making it more difficult to pull out and play on a whim. While it leveraged Harry Potter’s lore with collectibles, it turns out people didn’t want to fight Voldemort for lore, they wanted to capture Pokemon. Moreover, every new update has broken the game slightly more, leading to angry reviews from the few still playing.

All this culminated in Wizards Unite not really pulling in numbers comparable, or even in the same sport, as Pokemon Go. It’s not a particular surprise that Niantic and WB are moving on from it now, though I can’t imagine it’s a scenario either party expected.

Also, fuck J.K. Rowling.