US-based mobile games developer Niantic has partnered with Warner Bros to develop a new game based on the Harry Potter brand. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is set to launch in 2018 and will incorporate augmented reality (AR) features into the game.
Niantic pursues familiar strategy
The plans for the new Harry Potter game continue Niantic’s previous strategy, which is to build on past experience and expertise. 2016’s hit title Pokémon Go used location features from its earlier Ingress game, developed when Niantic was still part of Google.
With the new Harry Potter title, Niantic is again working with a brand with mass appeal and a company, Warner Bros, which also has experience of creating video games content. Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment has maintained a strong track record in AAA publishing in recent years. Its games have mostly been released onto console and PC, with the occasional IP also being ported to mobile, sometimes as companion experiences. However, this is the company’s biggest dedicated foray into mobile, in an emerging play category, and will take place under a newly-launched label, Portkey Games. Portkey Games will be the label for all Warner’s Harry Potter games content.
Few details, but new title should take advantage of AR developments
Pokémon Go demonstrated that there can be a large market for location-based games, but its AR integration was fairly limited and not integral to the game experience. Since Pokémon Go’s launch, both Apple and Google have ramped up their AR efforts with the respective launches of ARKit and ARCore – which enable more advanced AR features and easier development. But as these software tools are only available for more recent and premium smartphones, particularly for Android, IHS Markit expects that AR may once again not be integral to the core gameplay, to ensure the new game can reach as wide an audience as possible.
Brands drive downloads, but long term monetisation requires more effort
Pokémon Go generated more than $1bn revenues, but it has declined notably since its 2016 peak. As one of the most popular books, media and entertainment franchises of recent years, the Harry Potter brand will guarantee a spike of early interest in the new game at launch and so the challenge for Niantic will be to drive long-term monetisation.
Kids’ centric brand requires cautious approach to location features and monetisation
Like Pokémon, the Harry Potter brand has mass market appeal, and it’s one with particular appeal to children. Warner has experience with implementing Harry Potter for young game audiences, mostly via its LEGO games, but those titles were positioned as premium offerings on consoles and PC. This means that Niantic will need to be careful in how it integrates location features and monetises through in-app purchases, in order to protect both its users and the brand.