I was worried that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite would feel like Pokemon Go in wizard robes. In fact, the game, codeveloped Niantic and WB Games, feels much richer, with more items to interact with and more items to collect. And that's when I got into trouble.
The Wizards Unite game is filled with all sorts of interesting objects to pick up and play with: Right now, close to me, I can see a watering can and a dragon liver and a Greenhouse and an Inn. But I won't bother with any of them because on my second day of playing, I capped all my free storage space, making sure I didn't miss a thing from this wild and wonderful world.
So I'm stuck. I can't free up space by using ingredients to brew potions because I lack required ingredients. And I can't gather the necessary ingredients because I have no free space to store them. I can delete items to free up space, of course, and I can buy vault extensions to expand my capacity for $5, but something feels off with the balance of the wizarding game, if playing for a handful of hours pushes me to make purchases to keep playing.
I'm not against buying items. I've upgraded my bag and bought Pokeballs in Pokemon Go. I've purchased key lockers in Ingress too. And I don't mind managing my inventory by ruthless pruning items to stay under a cap. But the range Harry Potter: Wizard Unite gives you to play before paying feels much smaller than in Pokemon Go and Ingress, Niantic's first two games.
That other Harry Potter game
To be fair, microtransactions are often an issue with free-to-play games, with developers looking to find the right balance between letting gamers play and making money from their game. For example, the first Harry Potter mobile game — Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery — upset a lot of players when it launched with a "cash-hungry model" that turned off a lot of players.
The Wizards Unite store, named Diagon Alley, offers everything from an Anti-Calamity Kit for $4.99 to Vault Extenders, starting at $2.
Still, gaming wizards are willing to pay. According to market research firm SensorTower, over its first weekend, nearly 3 million players installed Harry Potter: Wizards Unite on iOS and Android devices and spent $1.1 million. In comparison, SensorTower noted, 24 million players installed Pokemon Go during its first four days, racking up $28 million in player spending.
The firm projects the wizarding game will earn $10 million in its first 30 days. Pokemon Go collected $206 million in its first 30 days.
Time to pay?
Is the game interesting enough that I'll pay to play? I'm not sure yet.
For me, the richness of the game may work against it. I don't really want to spend my time managing items and Foundables and Portkeys when I'd rather be doing what the game does best: playing.
Originally published June 28, 2019.
Update, June 29.
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