Niantic, the San Francisco-based developer of the worldwide Pokémon Go phenomenon, are about to tackle another one of the biggest franchises in the world. Reported today by Tech Crunch, the new project is another AR game, this time based on the magical world of Harry Potter. Subtitled Wizards Unite, the title is planned for release next year and will be co-developed by a new arm of Warner Bros. Interactive, called Portkey Games.
This announcement comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering that rumors already existed about the game shortly after Pokémon Go came out—rumours that were swiftly and thoroughly debunked. As Snopes points out, that didn’t necessarily disqualify it from existence, considering Pokémon Go was originally an April Fool’s joke by Google. However, with no mention of the story since and no word from the studio itself concerning the project’s existence, there was no reason to think it was actually in the pipeline.
Niantic first appeared on the scene with the 2013 release of Ingress, their first foray into “augmented reality” gaming. Based in the world of science fiction, players could join one of two factions and battle to secure real-world territories, claim AI bots for their armies, and control or “hack” portals that would pop up in a wide range of locations. Tech Crunch notes that “it sounds like there will be significant influence” from Ingress on Wizards Unite, citing the host of mechanics in place and the wealth of GPS data built up by Niantic’s previous titles.
On many players’ minds, surely, is whether or not Niantic will be more supportive and responsive to their install base than they were during Pokémon Go. I won’t delve too much into a well-worn topic, but suffice to say the developer didn’t always address fan concerns in a timely manner. If you believe CEO John Hanke, however, the studio is ready to turn over a new leaf in that regard.
“With our previous game Ingress we were very communicative with players, and very open. And we weren’t as communicative and open in the beginning [of Pokémon Go] because that was sort of a new process for our partners,” Hanke told The Verge in July. “I think we’ve become much more open over time.”
Proper post-release support or not, I think it’s a safe bet that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will be one of the biggest stories of 2018.