Ever since the game was release, and even before that, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has been relentlessly compared to Pokémon GO in so many different ways: mechanics, targeted players, financials, features, etc. However, what if the game actually did not and should not be compared to Pokémon GO? Of course, the fact remains that Pokémon GO is most likely the most comparable game out there, but Wizards Unite‘s success is something that should be considered on its own. Without further ado, here’s our humble take on the matter.
Notes from the Editor
1. Because we do not consider both games to have an end goal, and therefore not being ‘pay to win’ but rather ‘pay to facilitate your experience’, the in-game economy of the games will NOT be discussed in this article.
2. We strongly believe that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a considerably big success.
First and foremost, both games were launched in different eras of the mobile gaming development industry. Pokémon GO was among the first successful Augmented Reality/Geolocation-based games to hit the mobile gaming market; while Wizards Unite joined in three years later, which in the gaming industry can be compared to decades. What this means, is that the entire context in which it was released was entirely different: Pokémon GO was the first of its kind to reach mass population and casual players, while users had already witnessed a very large variety of games with similar formats when Wizards Unite was finally released.
Yes, both games adopted the Augmented Reality/Geolocation genre.
Yes, both games use very similar mechanics (Niantic being the developer behind the two games, it simply makes sense).
However, the two games are actually very different on various aspects, aspects which are often compared and considered as being Wizards Unite‘s failure (which we disagree with). In order to keep our rationale comprehensive, we’ll stick to four aspects.
People often consider Wizards Unite to be less or counter-intuitive in comparison with Pokémon GO, and after much discussion with various parties, we think we may have [partially] found what this may be the case, and that is because it doesn’t have the same mechanics people are used to in Pokémon GO. It makes a lot of sense to turn back to something familiar when learning something new. Humans do the same thing when they learn a new language, and it’ll often cause a linguistic interference.
Linguistic interference isn’t wrong, it is part of the learning process, but it can become an issue and make the targeted language to learn feel counter-intuitive if we rely too much on the familiarity of our mother tongue. The same concept applies to our situation at hand. Relying on elements that we are familiar with from Pokémon GO is completely normal since both games have their share similarities. However, it will certainly start feeling counter-intuitive if we rely on said similarities for every feature that we explore in Wizards Unite.
If you were to open Wizards Unite for the first time, go through the tutorial without expecting or hoping that the game will work as Pokémon GO does, it won’t feel counter-intuitive. Several people who have not played any Augmented Reality/Geolocation-based games have found Wizards Unite to be extremely intuitive and that its mechanics were easy to comprehend. Of course, this interference that we experience because of our experience with Pokémon GO is completely normal, but the point is that it should not be influencing one’s claim that the game is counter-intuitive, because players new to the genre actually report otherwise.
2. Game mechanics and graphics
Now, this second aspect is somewhat connected to the fourth one, but it is too often criticized by players and reporters as an indicator of Wizards Unite‘s failure not to be discussed on its own, and that is the game mechanics/graphics.
It’s undeniable, there are similarities with Pokémon GO, but there are also differences when it comes to the gameplay and the graphics. The issue in this case being that many players and reporters argue that the somewhat complex mechanics, i.e. the use of a Skill Tree/RPG system, (again, compared to Pokémon GO) is a contributing factor to the failure of the game as players return to Pokémon GO for its smoother and easier mechanics.
Have we ever thought about the players not from Pokémon GO? Those that come from different genres of games, or from no other mobile games at all? What about the fact that Warner Bros. has created a community center for players to interact with and help each other, which is non-existent in Pokémon GO? Yes, the game mechanics are different, but it is not contributing to the failure of the game, but rather contributing to a different gaming experience for a game that is set in an entire different universe/setting.
The same situation applies with the graphics. Many have found them to be too different and detailed than what they are used to in Pokémon GO. But, is Wizards Unite set in the Pokémon universe? It would simply make no sense AT ALL for the game to use the same kind of graphics. The Universe has always been so strong on details (in the literature, the movies, the games, etc.), than it needs its own pallet of graphics, which is extremely impressive and suits the game’s needs perfectly.
3. Franchises (added after original publication, thanks to Hexdro for the push)
There seems to be a misconception that the Potterverse created as big of a fanbase as Pokémon. While clearly, the Harry Potter series was among the most popular literature of all times, it did not get close to the size of the Pokémon fanbase. The reason for this misconception is related to the fact that Pokémon was made for gaming, which is more often than not frowned upon by society. Therefore, the Pokémon community has never been as publicly visible and accepted (for lack of a better word) as the Harry Potter community, until Pokémon GO. Book nerds and movie fanatics are much more noticeable than gamers, it’s a known fact.
Furthermore, Harry Potter never had and never will have the same playerbase as Pokémon simply because its original fanbase is not made of gamers, but mainly of literature and enthusiasts., while Pokémon’s fanbase is primarily made of gamers. In other words, Pokémon GO had access to a much larger pool of potential players, while Wizards Unite was more limited. To the extent where even several of the content creators invited to the launch event (invited so that they could promote the game through their social media channels) didn’t play the game past the event simply because gaming is not what they are interested in, not because the game isn’t a great one.
This is, to us, the most important aspect, and that is the fact that Wizards Unite is a completely different universe, in an entirely different setting than Pokémon GO. Niantic, Warner Bros., and Portkey Games had to adapt the game format, mechanics and graphics to the tone of the universe in order to be true to what the Harry Potter universe actually is, and we believe that they have done so wonderfully!
Every single aspect of the game is successfully implemented to immerse the players in the Harry Potter universe, in a fight to take on the Calamity. From the battle system to the inventory system or the use of Portraits, every feature fits perfectly into place to recreate the required setting and immerse players into this wonderful and mysterious universe that is Harry Potter.
At the end of the day, elements of the game are different than those in Pokémon GO, but that was needed to develop a game that is true to what it’s aiming for. When judging Wizards Unite‘s success, just keep in mind, it is NOT Pokémon GO.
One aspect where it is extremely difficult not to compare with Pokémon GO has to do with financials, but more specifically its revenues. Although this information is rarely provided by the game publishers, several parties are able to produce very accurate estimate of the actual revenues of a game. We have, on several occasions ourselves, written about Wizards Unite‘s revenues progress. In those posts, we always compared with Pokémon GO‘s revenues, and sometimes Hogwarts Mystery, and the reason that we did was not to demonstrate that Wizards Unite is a failure, because when looking at the numbers for the game alone, it is actually quite positive, but rather to highlight how a simple difference in context/era can make contribute importantly to the revenues of a game.
As stated above, Pokémon GO benefited from the fact that it was the first of its kind to reach to mass population and casual gamers, unlike Wizards Unite which was released in an era where the mobile gaming industry, especially related to Augmented Reality and Geolocation, has been booming ever since the launch of Pokémon GO. This difference in era/content is why the two games cannot compare in terms of revenues and why Wizards Unite must be considered on its to determine its success or failure.
As stated multiple times, we genuinely believe that the launch of Wizards Unite was successful and that it’s on the right path to grow even bigger and more successful than it is right now. Looking at the traffic on our website alone certainly suggests so, but looking at Youtubers’ views and subscribers, or activity level on Reddit definitely suggest a similar trend.
The important thing to remember from all this is that Wizards Unite is its own game, set in its own universe, with its own features that help immerse the players in a fight against the Calamity. Therefore, it will undoubtedly be different than Pokémon GO, but that shouldn’t influence anyone’s judgement of the game’s success.
Banner image: Credits to Dexerto