In June 2019 Niantic, famous for this little mobile game called Pokémon Go, launched a very similar title; Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was, as the name suggests, a wizard and spells-based AR game.
Apparently the game forgot its broomstick though as it didn’t quite fly, and Niantic has now announced that the game is due to shut down. A longer blog post tells us that the title won’t be downloadable from December 6, with the servers being fully turned off on January 31, 2022.
The blog tells us that Niantic isn’t just abandoning the game, with several events per month until the end, but it’s not clear how interested gamers will be in in-game events when the rewards will be disappearing shortly.
So why is Wizards Unite closing? While Niantic hasn’t shared official player stats, it seems the player count is way lower than on Pokémon Go. On the Play Store, Wizards Unite has nearly 319,000 ratings, while Pokemon Go has almost 15 million.
Sure, Pokemon Go has been out for three years more than the Harry Potter game, but that difference in rating wouldn’t be as stark if they were even remotely close in popularity.
Analysis: bad news for AR games?
After Pokémon Go’s huge popularity, many similar AR games sprung up to try to rival the $1,000,000,000-per-year-revenue mobile game.
Alongside Harry Potter: Wizards Unite we saw Jurassic World Alive, The Witcher: Monster Slayer, recently Pikmin Bloom and soon Transformers: Heavy Metal too.
These games are all very, very similar, as they’re AR-based games where you wander around the real world collecting in-game resources, battling (or collecting) creatures and claiming territory.
So far, none of the titles has come close to rivaling Pokémon Go in terms of audience popularity, and this Wizards Unite news suggests they may not be tenable to run at all.
That’s surprising, given the popularity of Harry Potter as a franchise, and it shows there’s more to a good AR game than brand recognition.
Pokémon Go is notable as it’s one of the few where you collect, instead of fight, the creatures you find around the map, making it a more relaxing play. It also has multiplayer online, territory-controlling and step-counting features, while lots of the rivals only have some (or none) of those.
We’re curious to see what happens with the myriad other AR games, some of which don’t seem as similar as Harry Potter: Wizards Unite; perhaps a runner-up to the animal-collecting leviathan will emerge, but it’s also possible the AR bubble will pop.