Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a more complex Pokémon Go for superfans

The magic of the game lies in bringing J.K. Rowling’s world to life in AR

For Niantic Labs’ next trick, the augmented reality game studio is diving head-first into another knotty fandom, the world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, with scores of dedicated fans, a rich history of lore to explore, and untold storylines to tell. 

But this time, boiling down a massive fictional world into an easy-to-understand AR video game seems to have been a much more difficult task. That’s because Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is not very simple. In fact, it’s got numerous systems at work, all simultaneously competing for your attention and potentially obfuscating what it is that you might want to open the app to actually do. 

In the first demo of the game at Niantic’s San Francisco office last week, I was among a group of reporters who were able to try Wizards Unite before its official launch sometime later this year. On the surface, the game feels and looks similar to Pokémon Go, the mega-hit AR game that made Niantic one of the most well-known mobile game developers in the world. There’s a map that corresponds to the real world, and you largely traverse around in physical space while looking for digital items to pick up.

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