If all goes well, later this year we will finally be treated to an actual Harry Potter MMORPG in the form of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. While that will be a mobile ARG in the vein of Pokemon Go, it will still be a big step into the online space that MMO fans have been craving for nearly two decades now.
Obviously, Harry Potter continues to be a mammoth franchise for J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., and Electronic Arts, which has handled the video game license over the years. While there have been single-player Harry Potter titles, especially on consoles, no MMORPG emerged even at the height of the IP craze that swallowed up Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer, and more. So why not?
The truth is that Harry Potter Online almost did happen. Its brief existence and development isn’t too well-known, even today, but the wasted potential has always tantalized me with what could have been. Using a time-turner, we will go back to the late 1990s today and peek in on a possible future that came to fruition.
South Korean games publisher Netmarble posted its financial report for the last quarter of 2017, ending the year on a bit of a down note. While revenues were up, net profits and operating profits saw a decline during that period.
The company continues to make inroads around the world with more revenue coming from outside Korea than within. South Korea only accounts for 32% of the revenue right now vs. 69% in the first quarter 2017. Mobile MMORPGs continue to be its biggest seller at 45%, with titles like Lineage 2 Revolution (39% of game revenue) and Tera M (5%) paving the way.
The studio hopes to have a strong 2018 with upcoming titles such as Magic: The Gathering Project M, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery for mobile, and Seven Knights for the Nintendo Switch.
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree wrassle a mess of eastern mobile MMOs that are leaping onto the scene, imagine a world full of Harry Potter gamers wandering about, discuss SWTOR’s server merges, and take Guild Wars 2 to task for lockbox missteps.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
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When we first heard rumors about a Harry Potter version of Pokemon Go, I said I could barely imagine what the game might be like before listing several other IPs that would translate better as AR games. It’s not that I don’t like the Harry Potter series (I do) or Niantic (someone’s got to push the envelope). My issue is that I can’t see how their respective styles could combine to create something great.
So I’ve gone back to some of my pre-POGO notes about Ingress and what would need to change before it went live and, well, Niantic clearly thinks differently than I do because this game is very much happening. I thought it might be useful to consider Niantic’s past and how it may affect its upcoming game Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Let’s dig in.
Like the idea of a mobile augmented reality game (ARG) but aren’t really keen on Pokémon? Niantic, the operator of Ingress and Pokémon Go, is branching out to include an additional franchise that should rope non-muggles into its community.
The company announced that it working with WB Games to make Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite uses state-of-the-art augmented reality technology to reveal the magic all around us,” the teaser site says. “Explore real-world neighbourhoods and cities to discover mysterious artifacts, learn to cast spells, and encounter legendary beasts and iconic characters along the way!”
Niantic CEO John Hanke said that this game will give fans of the series a real-world outlet for their passion: “The beloved Harry Potter stories have captured imaginations worldwide for more than 20 years, and soon we’ll turn the fantasy into augmented reality, allowing fans and their friends to become wizards and witches.”
Wizards Unite is one of several titles being developed by WB’s Portkey Games for mobile and console. More details about the game will be forthcoming in the new year.
This week in MMO crowdfunding news, Chronicles of Elyria caused an unintentional stir this week when Soulbound Studios posted that it still needed up to $3 million to completely finish the game. While it wasn’t exactly a secret, the revelation was still a surprise to many players as it wasn’t expressly stated in the Kickstarter earlier this year. Compounding the consternation was Soulbound’s simultaneous notice that it would not be granting refunds for Kickstarter donations. Studio boss Jeromy Walsh told Massively OP in a lengthy interview that the money raised through Kickstarter and pre-Kickstarter investment from friends and family is being used to create a minimal viable product and that while the company does plan to crowdfund using its website store, most of the remaining money will be raised through investors or publishers, not players.
Meanwhile, we offered up a checklist for how to approach MMO Kickstarting from the player end, Shroud of the Avatar launched release 34, Albion Online released its Elaine patch, HEX published three new signature decks, and on the planetary survival sandbox front, ROKH delayed its early access to next year, while Osiris: New Dawn swooped into early access and announced console launches for 2017.
Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding this week and the roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’ve got our eye on!
Augmented reality MMOs aren’t new, but we’re about to see a bunch of new ones, propelled by the unexpected success of Pokemon Go. Case in point: Maguss Wand, which isn’t technically a Harry Potter game but happily embraces the comparison in spite of possible legal issues. It wasn’t inspired by Pokemon Go, having been in development for a couple of years already, but the timing is good all the same.
“Maguss Wand is a new AR MMORPG mobile game that has been in development for almost 2 years now,” reads the press release. “The game will allow you to walk and explore the earth while experiencing and living in the fantasy at the same time. It [lets] a player to become a wizard in the real world through immersive game-play. Explore magic, study wizardry, collect herbs and other ingredients, cast and defend spells, win duels and gain glory.”
According to Engadget, the game’s developers attempted a Kickstarter last year for a motion-sensing wand peripheral, but that Kickstarter didn’t fund. Now the devs say they’re planning an Indiegogo campaign on October 10th, with a closed alpha release coming “very soon.”
I really enjoy being a guest on Larry Everett‘s video series Massively Opinionated, a series in which MMO enthusiasts answer some tough questions and argue the case for their answer to trump the other guests’ submissions. On each episode, Larry asks his guests to design their own MMO based on certain prerequisites or criteria. It’s a really fun question in which the answers are only limited by the question parameters and the panelists’ imaginations, so it’s not surprising that it’s my favourite question type on the show.
On one particular episode of Massively Opinionated, we were asked to design a sticky MMO that really grips players for a prolonged period of time. For that question, two of the three given answers looked to non-MMO IPs to bring something fresh and compelling to the genre that would optimise player retention rates. Ever since that episode, I’ve been mulling over how unique non-MMO IPs carry the potential to bring new, exciting mechanics to the genre.
I’ve sat on this idea for some time while I’ve mulled over which specific mechanics could potentially be derived from some well-known and loved IPs, and in this edition of MMO Mechanics I’m finally ready to put those thoughts down on figurative paper for you lovely readers. I’ve thought through three examples of IPs that could add something unique to the genre, but there’s so much unexplored possibility for the future of MMOs that I’m sure you could think of so many more. Don’t forget to scroll down to the comments to add your own thoughts.
Let this be an important lesson to any would-be game designers: If you try to make a game based on a very well-known IP without a license to do so and then attempt to raise money to fund it, you’re going to be on the receiving end of a Dumbledore Army of lawyers.
This is the case with BioHazard Entertainment, whose Kickstarter campaign to fund The Wizarding World Online was slapped with a cease and desist by Warner Bros. “This campaign is devoted to the creation of an MMO game based on the Harry Potter stories and films,” WB’s lawyers stated. “This game is unauthorized and violates Warner Bros.’s rights in the property.”
There’s always more to every story than is often told, which is why it’s fascinating to come across accounts like this one by former Turbine Systems QA employee, who contributed to a multi-page thread about the “warts and all” of working on Lord of the Rings Online for 2.5 years.
The ex-employee, Aylwen, posted pictures from the company as well. Among his posts include tales of rivalry with the DDO staff, PvMP development, industry politics, obfuscation over internal failings, Blizzard’s “ferociously competitive nature” toward other studios, how Infinite Crisis was “hemorrhaging money,” and how Turbine took a stab at both a Harry Potter MMO and a console version of LOTRO.