Niantic Labs is a household name especially for regular mobile gamers. After all, they were the ones that developed “Pokémon GO” for Nintendo. Its debut in 2016 made it the most-downloaded and moneymaking mobile app of the year. People the world over took to the streets or gathered in socially active crowds to hunt down digital representations of the franchise’s “pocket monsters,” with all the positive and negative implications of large-scale movements and assemblies. Despite development hiccups Niantic has proven its game-making chops with “Pokémon GO.” Now they are preparing to launch a new app based on another popular franchise.
Tech Crunch reports that Niantic has just released their first teaser for “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.” It is their fourth announced app (one of which was never released) and the second based on an existing IP. Perhaps bigger than Nintendo’s “Pokémon,” the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. will be given the same augmented reality gameplay experience that elevated “Pokémon GO,” but promised to be much more evolved. Fans of the “Harry Potter” books and films, as well as the “Fantastic Beasts” prequel spinoff, are promised something special with this magical spin on the tried and tested formula.
The teaser, preceded by logos of various Wizarding World ministerial agencies, depicts a Quidditch snitch suddenly appearing in an urban environment, possibly Muggle London. A teenager with a wand “apparates” into the scene, captures the snitch, and then posts a magical notice on a wall before disappearing. The poster warns that strange forces are causing phenomena that risks wide global exposure of the Wizarding World, and is asking for help.
Here is where the players of “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” come in. Once signed into the app, they will play the role of witches and wizards, whose task is to investigate their muggle surroundings for out-of-place magical activity like artifacts, spells and creatures. The latter is seen beautifully rendered in preview images also shared by Niantic, with player options to catch them, a la Pokémon. Famous Potter-verse characters might also show up in game sequences.
Niantic first announced their work on “Wizards Unite” back in 2017, working together with Portkey Games and WB Games San Francisco. They also hoped to integrate new AR tech from one of their recent acquisitions, Escher Reality, that would help create “persistent” AR worlds beyond their previous mobile app titles. The game is expected to be released sometime this year.
Images: Variety & The Verge