The upcoming augmented-reality game Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will not allow for players to be sorted into the four individual competitive house teams. Some fans of the series are confused, wondering why they are not going to be allowed to represent the house they most identify with.
Emma Kent from Eurogamer recently sat down to chat with WB Games San Francisco executive producer, Mary Casey, to discuss why that decision had been made. Ultimately, Casey describes the decision as one that aims to include as many people as possible:
“Houses for me are probably one of the most iconic but intrinsic parts of the Harry Potter universe, I'm a Slytherin born and bred, tried true, there's no way that I would swap to another house. But at the same time, I want to be able to play with you! And I want to be able to play with that guy over there, and with my son, my husband, my nieces, and we're all different houses. We all have a part to play, we all have a role to play, and that's really important. Harry Potter to me is really about bringing diversity, diverse people with diverse skillsets together, Harry's friends were - obviously Hermione and Ron had very different skill sets, but people like Neville and Luna as well, we didn't want to exclude them to another team, we wanted to bring them together.”
After considering a few options with the development team about how best to proceed, Casey concludes, “we made the decision to not go with competitive houses, and allow people with different houses to play together cooperatively and to overcome the calamity.”
When presented in this way, the move feels not only justifiable, but downright in line with the conclusion of the series when (almost) everyone came together against Lord Voldemort. There are other games that strongly embrace the idea of factional allegiances, such a World of Warcraft, where it is Alliance or Horde, and the two are often at odds with each other.
This too feels like a good decision when we recall the launch of Niantic’s more recent augmented reality game, Pokémon GO, with players being asked to choose between their yellow, red, or blue teams. For a while there were rivalries, but it was more of a joke than anything since at launch there was no real purpose to the teams. Starting everyone off together does feel more inclusive.
Thematically, the idea that everyone is on the same side against a common enemy works quite well in the trailer for the game, where it does not matter from what house we are, but rather that we are all in this together.
As for the rest of the game, it has not yet been made clear exactly how monetization will work. Casey affirmed that everything in the game needs to feel accessible to everyone, like Pokémon GO, but perhaps there are ways to spend money to enhance a part of the game. For some players of Pokémon, that might be an endless supply of incubators, so we wonder what the equivalent would be in a game with nothing to catch. Still, Casey was clear that “everything in the game is earnable.”
Now, while there are no Pokémon in this game, players will instead need to venture outside to collect ingredients found throughout the world to create potions; ingredients which will also be grown by the player. Some potions will give bonus XP, while others might buff you in certain ways for special encounters. Perhaps the “incubators” of this game will be pots for growing herbs, or cauldrons for brewing potions.
Finally, players will also have access to skill trees that will allow for heavy customization of their builds. The goal appears to be the supporting of a broad style of play, and also to have people experiment to find fun, interesting builds to invest in. Since swapping classes between auror, professor, or magizoologist does not lose any of your hard-earned progress, players are free to invest in one skill tree, and completely switch later on.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will launch by region, similar to Pokemon GO, beginning June 21st. Check your Owls frequently for updates, and if you still wish you could identify with one particular house, come join us in the Hufflepuff common room, located in a nook on the right-hand side of the kitchen corridor, behind a stack of barrels. Everyone is welcome, and there is no password, but fellow Hufflepuffs already knew that.