7 Reasons Wizards Unite's Launch Was a 'Flop' (and Why You Shouldn't Give Up on It Yet)

It's been just over a week since the release of Niantic's latest mobile AR offering, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and while the game garnered three million downloads and more than $1 million in revenue its first weekend, the numbers paled in comparison to the 24 million downloads and $28 million in revenue Niantic's Pokémon Go raked in during its launch weekend. So what happened? Why such a marked difference between the releases? We've spent quite a bit of time playing both Pokémon Go and Wizards Unite, and while there are distinct reasons the game is off to a sluggish start, we think fans shouldn't give up on it yet.

7 Reasons Wizards Unite's Launch Was a 'Flop' (and Why You Shouldn't Give Up on It Yet)

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Here's why Harry Potter: Wizards Unite's release couldn't compare with Pokemon Go's and why fans shouldn't give up on it yet. Niantic

#1 - Too Much, Too Soon

One of the biggest issues with the Wizards Unite launch was the huge amount of hype built over a very long development period. Pokémon Go was first announced on September 10, 2015, with beta tests launching just six months later. In total there were only ten months between the Pokémon Go announcement and the July 6 release date. Meanwhile, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was announced November 2017, with hype beginning around the summer of 2018 and building through December 2018, which made it seem as though the game was destined to release in time for Christmas. Christmas came and went and players heard nothing more about the game until March 2019 when the first gameplay video released. Interest began building again when beta tests started in April with fans certain that E3 would bring a release. But when E3 rolled around and still no Wizards Unite, many felt their excitement fade.

"My enthusiasm is starting to wane," said one Redditor just three weeks before the release. "I'm getting to the point where I'm no longer 'waiting' for its release. Anyone else starting to feel like that?"

"Yep. I think they made a mistake with their marketing campaign," added another. "They used all this wartimes propaganda imagery that projected urgency to hype the game up but they stopped posting more and they didn't give us a release date. We can only be expectant for so long without any content or news."

After nearly two years of waiting, Niantic finally announced a June 21 launch, but for many fans, the thrill was gone.

#2 - Surprise Attack

While the company built plenty of hype during the game's development, it felt like they dropped the ball when it came to the actual release. On June 20, the company decided to quietly release the game on the App stores, one day ahead of schedule. The lack of announcement and fanfare surrounding the early release caught fans completely off guard, with many unaware the game was available until the official release date.

#3 - Over Monetized

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Spell Energy has been a huge issue in Wizards Unite. Niantic

As players jumped into Wizards Unite, it didn't take long to realize the game had a clear paywall in the form of Spell Energy and Storage Capacity. The supply and demand of premium resources in the game were so out of balance users soon labeled the game a money grab. While Pokémon Go monetizes in a similar way with Pokeballs and Backpack storage, purchases aren't needed as frequently. This is because Spell Energy is used in EVERY encounter from Traces to Fortress Battles, while in Pokémon Go, Pokeballs are only used to capture Pokémon, not to fight Gym Battles. Players can get free Spell Energy from visiting Inns and Greenhouses, but for many players, the amount of Spell Energy needed to play far outweighs the free resources provided in the game. While Niantic has since upped the amount of free Spell Energy players can get from Inns and Greenhouses, many players still feel there needs to be a greater balance regarding in-game purchases.

#4 - Poor UI

Wizards Unite released with several annoying UI features that make gameplay a somewhat tedious affair. For example, managing Spell Energy is an important part of the game, but finding the amount of Spell Energy you currently have is pretty darn tricky. While Spell Energy is displayed on the screen during battle, it's nearly impossible to find when not in battle. Additionally, if you run out of Spell Energy during a battle, it's far too easy to accidentally press the purchase button when trying to run away. Purchases with coins don't have a "Confirm" message so if you mistakenly press the button, you're out your hard-earned coins.

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Watching the same animations for common Foundables can be a bit of a drag. Niantic

Another UI flaw causing great frustration with users are the slow and unchanging Foundable animations. "Don't get me wrong the animations are quite good but I've seen some so many times, that it's just wasting my life away," said one Redditor. "If there was more variety, it would probably be less of a problem, but I've seen mostly the same ones about 50 times now, it's getting old."

The post has been upvoted over 1,000 times, making it clear that the slow animations are unpopular across the community.

#5 - Didn't Capitalize on Unique Features

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is essentially a reskin of Pokémon Go, but the game does include a few unique features that set it apart. Sadly, Niantic has yet to capitalize on these features. For example, Wizards Unite incorporates a "Professions" section complete with a Skill Tree. As players collect the proper resources, they are able to boost various battle characteristics by completing lessons on the Skill Tree. The completed lessons allow players to increase stats like Spell Power, Stamina, Defense, and Healing Ability. These stats really come in handy as you reach higher levels of gameplay and are participating in team Wizarding Challenges in Fortresses.

While players may find the Skill Tree aspect of the game something exciting and new, the thrill is quickly lost when you realize one of the resources needed to level up certain skills are the elusive Restricted Section books. The only way to get these books is during events, but so far, no in-game events have taken place. The inability to gather Restricted Books outside of events has left many feeling disillusioned.

"One of the features that really sets this game apart from Pokémon Go is the skill tree. It's fun to use RPG-style features to progress your character and make choices that customize how they battle. Except ... you don't actually get to make a choice," said one Redditor. "As a Professor, I've managed to snake my way down about 1/3 of the tree. There are four exciting paths to choose from to continue my progress, but three of those paths require the endlessly frustrating, not-yet-released, sure-to-be-very-scarce, dreaded, cursed, no-fun-at-all, greenish-blackish books of restricted doom. Way to kill the fun of choosing how to progress your character, Niantic."

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Green Restricted Section books are nearly impossible to get in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Niantic

#6 - Not Enough Access

Wizards Unite players have their own list of reasons why the game isn't what they'd hoped for, but for some fans simply gaining access to the game has been a problem. According to Niantic, Wizards Unite requires at least 2GB of RAM, a gyroscope and compass sensors to even run the game. This leaves a large percentage of Android users out of the mix. Additionally, Niantic noted that even if the device meets the criteria, some phones may still be unable to run Wizards Unite. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go is playable on nearly every Android device with most players reporting only 1 GB of RAM needed to play. Adding to the frustration, a number of Android users, specifically those using the Moto 5, have reported that Portkeys — one of the more unique features of the game — are inaccessible due to the required use of AR mode.

"Millions of people can play the Portkey features! Is too much to ask for a fix or just for a button to off VR on the menu?" said one Redditor.

#7 - Pokémon is King

No matter what Harry Potter: Wizards Unite may lack or how the release was handled, one thing people need to understand is that Wizards Unite was NEVER going to be Pokémon Go. There are several reasons for this. First, the Pokémon franchise is the highest grossing media franchise of all time, outpacing competitors like Star Wars, Mario, Marvel Cinematic Universe and yes, Harry Potter (Number 11). Both franchises kicked off within a year of one another and in that time Harry Potter has amassed $31 billion in estimated revenue, while Pokémon boasts $90 billion.

Besides having the most lucrative media franchise in the world behind it, Pokémon Go also had the advantage of being the first of its kind. The game was the first time players saw mobile AR being used in such a way. It revolutionized the way game designers thought about AR and its continued success has fueled a massive growth projection for AR games in 2019-2024.

Why We Shouldn't Give Up on Wizards Unite

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Harry Potter: Wizards Unite may have some kinks to work out, but players shouldn't give up on it yet. Niantic

While Harry Potter: Wizards Unite's release was less than perfect, fans of the franchise shouldn't give up on it yet. Besides its drove of loyal fans and the ground-breaking nature of the game, Pokémon Go also has the advantage of being three years older than Wizards Unite. That's three years the developers have had to refine and build its gameplay features into the rich offering that it is today. It's easy to assume that because Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is coming from the same developer, the initial offering will have the same level of polish as Pokémon Go, but that's just not realistic. Developers need time to hear their audience, find out their needs and then work to design features that meet those needs. Though there may be overlap in the audiences, player drawn to Wizards Unite may have decidedly different needs than those playing Pokémon Go. Niantic has done a fabulous job of getting at the heart of what Pokémon fans want. Let's give them space to show us Harry Potter fanatics what they can do in that space as well.