Niantic’s augmented reality game about the boy who lived is about to die. The company that brought us “Pokémon GO” debuted “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” two years ago, following a similar formula to their initial smash hit. But it turns out that popular franchise plus augmented reality game doesn’t always equal success.
“Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” will officially become unplayable on January 31, 2022, but after December 6, the game will be removed from all app stores. Players won’t be able to make in-app purchases after December 6 either, but existing in-app purchases like Gold can be redeemed in the game until January 31. No refunds will be available “except where otherwise required by law,” the game wrote in its announcement.
Even though the fantasy game posted decent numbers after its initial release, it was clear from the get-go that it wasn’t reaching the same levels of success as “Pokémon GO.” Despite the pandemic, “Pokémon GO” had its highest-earning year in 2020, grossing over $1 billion, and the app is already earning even more than that this year, with $1.1 billion so far.
“Not all games are meant to last forever,” Niantic wrote in a blog post. “We accomplished [our goals] together, delivering a two-year narrative story arc that will soon complete.”
It’s true that Niantic’s “Harry Potter” game is far more narrative-driven than “Pokémon Go,” which only vaguely gestures at a plot. But the numbers behind these games speak to another potential reason behind the game’s closure.
According to app analytics firm Sensor Tower, “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” saw approximately 739,000 installs globally in the first ten months of 2021, down 57% year-over-year from the same period in 2020, when it saw approximately 1.7 million installs. Similarly, in-app consumer spending was also down 57% so far this year compared to the same time period last year. To date, the game was downloaded an estimated 20.3 million times, generating $39.4 million from consumer spending. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go has generated over $1.1 billion in revenue so far this year.
The sunsetting of “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” comes after Niantic debuted a new game last week, “Pikmin Bloom,” developed in collaboration with Nintendo. Niantic is also working on “Transformers: Heavy Metal,” a game that will let users battle giant robots in AR. In a blog post today, Niantic said it had nine games and apps in its development pipeline, including some that will soft launch next year. Niantic told TechCrunch that employees working on “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” will be redirected to other projects.
Niantic CEO John Hanke noted in an interview with TechCrunch upon the release of “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” that the system the game used was built for “Pokémon GO” and “Ingress.”
“As we built things, particularly for ‘Pokémon GO,’ we tried deliberately to make them part of a platform that could be re-used in other games,” Hanke told TechCrunch at the time. “The social features are a great example of that; those were built to support ‘Pokémon GO,’ but were built to be easily adopted by other games.”
So perhaps the shut-down of “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” reveals that while walking around and interacting with digital objects might work in the Pokémon universe, it can’t be applied seamlessly to any other franchise.