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SDCC: Harry Potter: Wizards Unite AR game turns you into an everyday magical hero

By Josh Weiss
Harry Potter Wizards Unite

*Throws down Floo Powder* SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON!

Niantic and WB/Portkey Games took a break from breeding Pygmy Puffs (don't judge, it's a very lucrative industry!) to sit down at SDCC 2019 and talk about the brand-new AR Harry Potter game, Wizards Unite. In particular, the panel touched on how the title is built around the user, rather than just being forced into the persona of a totally different character.

“When we were coming to create something, we really wanted to take all those hopes and dreams you had of becoming a wizard," said Portkey's Executive Director of Product, Mary Casey. "And I really wanted to create something that let you experience and explore [the Wizarding World] … We all have a chance to be a hero in our everyday lives … I wanted to integrate that idea that we all have this part to play … and be heroic in our own ways ... We wanted to support who you are right now, not some other version of yourself … this is your opportunity to become special and share it with other people."

Harry Potter Wizards Unite SDCC 2019

As such, you have all the freewill you do in the real world, and the ability to choose your own magical path. Wanna be an Auror? Go for it! Wanna pursue the Dark Arts? More power to ya, but we don't recommend that second path. It never ends well for the evil wizards and witches.

"Maybe you’re more of a Tonks, maybe you’re more of Voldemort—that’s okay," added Casey. "It’s your window into this world and unveiling things you always knew were there, but couldn’t necessarily get a hold of before."

“We drew from a lot of sources of inspiration," echoed Portkey Senior Art Manager, April Stegall. “We didn’t want to go too stylized in the character representation … It needs to feel like those characters belong [in the real world] ... Whimsy is a big part of the Wizarding World. Things aren’t perfect, they’re not factory made.”

Playing as a member of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, you travel around J.K. Rowling's iconic universe, attempting to prevent a cataclysmic event known as "The Calamity," which, if left unchecked, will expose magic to the Muggle world. To further personalize the game, players can choose a special area of expertise, be it Auror (dark wizard catcher), Magizoologist, or Professor. As you visit regular places around your neighborhood, you'll come across structures like green houses, inns, fortresses, and more. All the while, you're casting spells, brewing potions, and tracking down "Foundables," escaped magical items that yield rewards once you send them back to the Wizarding World.

“We’ve actually brought in as much data as we can about cool stops in your neighborhoods," said Niantic Product Manager, Alex Moffit, adding that all the important locations in the AR come from user-submitted data. "It’s places that maybe have a cool story to them … Or that spot in your neighborhood you bring your family or friends if they’re visiting."

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

Keeping things as immersive and physical as possible is very important for Niantic. The company's Director of Worldwide Marketing, Archit Bhargava, highlighted that three important boxes need to be checked when developing an AR game: exploration, exercise, and real world social experiences. That being said, it was important to allow for interactions with other players, while encouraging folks to discover new things about their cities and towns.

"AR has evolved so much," he stated. “I yelled 'Expecto Patronum!' at Trader Joe’s the other day and people looked at me like I was a crazy person."

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is currently available to download for Android and iOS devices. The game's first-ever fan festival (similar to those held for Pokémon GO) will take place at White River State Park in Indianapolis, Indiana between Aug. 31 - Sep. 1. You can register for it here.

If you attend, you'll have an exclusive chance to collect exclusive, "region-locked" dragons (like the Common Welsh Green) and their eggs before they scatter around the globe.

Wizards Unite dragons

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.