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This Recent Overhyped Harry Potter Game Was A Total Flop

Fans wanted a video game adaptation of the "Harry Potter" franchise almost as soon as the book series began releasing in the 1990s. They soon got their wish, and "Harry Potter" adaptations and original games were released alongside the books and movies – but they weren't all magical. For every "LEGO Harry Potter," there's a "Hogwarts Mystery," and the quality of "Harry Potter" adaptations runs the gamut. In 2019, gamers found themselves excited for yet another wizard game, this time from the developer behind the beloved "Pokémon GO," Niantic. But "Wizards Unite" didn't soar into the sunset on a broomstick. Instead, it was a flop that left many fans disappointed.

But why did the wizarding title from Niantic fail? After all, fans seemed to mostly enjoy it, despite its bugs. Unfortunately, the answer is complicated, involving a mixture of performance issues, poor sales, and familiar gameplay. Eventually, the title shut down in 2022, leaving fans without a constant virtual wizarding home until "Hogwarts Legacy" arrived in 2023. Here's why "Wizards Unite" didn't last with gamers.

Wizards Unite was a bit too similar to Pokemon GO

When Niantic released "Pokémon GO" in 2016, mobile gamers had never seen anything like it – at least not on the same scale, anyway. Inspired by developer John Hanke's love of gamifying maps via augmented reality, his company set out to create a game that allowed players to "capture" Pokémon via smartphone while walking around in the real world. Aspiring Pokémon trainers never knew what types of creatures they'd run into during their daily walks, which encouraged players to continue playing – and exploring their neighborhoods. During the COVID-19 pandemic, "Pokémon GO" additionally provided a way for some gamers to maintain social connections from a safe distance – even though Niantic eventually tried to walk back its increased range for interactions. With "Pokémon GO" experiencing continued success, it seemed inevitable that a similar game with other IPs would emerge.

"Wizards Unite" offered the same sort of gameplay, but with a "Harry Potter" twist. Instead of catching wandering creatures, hopeful wizards could explore the unseen magical world around them, collecting artifacts, encountering magical beasts, and battling characters from the wizarding world. 

While the game was technically different from its "Pokémon"-themed counterpart, the two titles had many similarities. For example, instead of the Pokéstops in "Pokémon GO," "Wizards Unite" featured Inns that allowed wizards to recharge. However, "Wizards Unite" also included a progressive narrative that unfolded over the life of the game. While the two titles catered to different fanbases, gamers looking to experience both might have noticed major similarities and chosen the AR game they already knew best. 

Money may have been an issue

Gamers seem to be losing interest in AR games, even as "Pokémon GO" continues to thrive. In its official statement announcing the end of "Wizards Unite," Niantic explained, "Not all games are meant to last forever. Our goal with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was to bring the magic of the wizarding world to life ... We accomplished that together, delivering a two-year narrative story arc that will soon complete." The developer also mentioned two other AR games that it had just released or planned to release soon. One of those games, "Pikmin Bloom," is still running, but the other never even released. After earning less than $1,000 during its soft launch, "Transformers Heavy Metal" didn't even survive 6 months. 

Given that "Transformers Heavy Metal" seemed to shut down due to poor sales, it would make sense for the same to be true of "Wizards Unite." Even years after its release, the game had only made just under $40 million. That may sound like a good deal of cash — until you consider that "Pokémon GO" made over $900 million in 2020 alone. Considering that "Wizards Unite" required all the maintenance and attention of a live service game, it could have made financial sense for Niantic to pull the plug.

Performance issues and lack of incentive

On top of everything else working against it, "Wizards Unite" also had some performance issues that fans couldn't help but notice. One Redditor commented on the game after its closing, writing, "Such a brilliant IP and beautiful graphics sadly ruined by bug after bug after bug." For many players, performance issues were simply unacceptable, especially considering the years of experience Niantic had making AR games.

Other players argued that the game didn't offer enough incentive for people to continue opening up the app. While "Pokémon GO" rewarded players with items that would help them on their journey to become a Pokémon master, "Wizards Unite" did not provide positive reinforcement in the same way. Instead, resources were much more scarce and required players to carefully manage items. This made the overall game experience less casual than its "Pokémon" predecessor and turned some players off from "Wizards Unite" entirely.

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