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Niantic says goodbye to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and hello to Pikmin Bloom

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Niantic’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite officially closes on January 31, 2022, but just-released Pikmin Bloom is just one many AR projects on the way.

In an official post, Niantic has confirmed that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will officially close all access (alleys?) to the wizarding world come January 31, 2022. That means servers and all means of the playing the downloaded game off. And all forums and social media ousted. Not before, however, its removal from the App Store, Google Play and Galaxy Store on December 6, 2021, as well as the deactivation of in-game purchases.

Niantic also referred to the shutdown on its blog, stating “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 for millions of players as they stepped outside and explored their neighborhoods. We accomplished that together, delivering a two-year narrative story arc that will soon complete.”

This may or may indeed not come as a shock to most users, given rumblings of its low popularity compared to the global phenomenon Pokémon Go. Whilst Wizards Unite has hardly been a complete revenue slouch compared to its mobile contemporaries, generating some $12 million in revenue and attracting 15 million downloads in its first month of release, there were warning signs.

Pokémon Go’s launch month revenue dwarfed this with an estimated $300 million and 182 million downloads. A comparison of lifetime statistics is even more stark. By May of this year, total revenue for Wizards Unite was estimated at $37 million with 20 million downloads, meaning that even after a relatively slow start, numbers have since crawled.

Whilst Wizards Unite barely generated a tenth of Pokémon Go‘s first month in revenue in its entire lifetime, the latter seems to be going from strength to strength with 2020’s active users and revenue (bolstered by the pandemic) the highest in its history with an annual revenue of $1.92 billion on top of a lifetime revenue to $6.46 billion.

Whilst 2021 might not see Pokémon Go reach quite those heights, it’s still brought in $641.6 million in the first half of this year. Numbers are no doubt hampered by the controversy over Niantic reversing pandemic-related adjustments and adding ‘exploration bonuses’ to the game.

Wizards Unite is not alone in struggling to find success with the genre. It would be easy to place blame on its tacit association with the original author of the Wizarding World and her controversies, but other games like Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery seem to be trucking along. The evidence seems to show that the AR/location-based genre is just failing to stick outside of Niantic’s initial success story. Notably, Minecraft Earth launched at a similar time as Wizards Unite was shut down in June.

Given its imminent expiry, Wizards Unite is being extra generous to the few millions who did get invested and increasing rewards, slashing timers, and increasing the incidence of items. Events are also continuing between now and January, with something of a send-off being teased for that final month.

This will also be buyer beware lesson for those who invest heavily in mobile apps with the Q&A stating “players will not be able to receive a refund on past purchases, except where otherwise required by law.” Any remaining in-game currency and items will of course be spendable until January 31 2022, but if you invested in the game because you thought it had a life beyond that date you’re out of luck.

Does this mean Niantic is consolidating all its resources to focus on its clear money-maker? Apparently not.

“With nine games and apps in our development pipeline, some of which will go into soft launch in 2022, there are many more amazing worlds that we want to bring to life in new and unique ways,” Niantic teased in a blog post.  We already know this week-available Pikmin Bloom and Transformers: Heavy Metal, but it seems 2022 onwards will see many more properties treated to the Niantic formula and made an (augmented) reality.

“Our goal is to deliver the best experiences to you, our players, based on our pillars of exploration, exercise and real world social interaction. We’ll take all of the learnings from Harry Potter: Wizards Unite into our other projects.”

What these lessons are and if they can save Niantic’s next games are the real questions. Pikmin Bloom is currently sitting on 500,000+ downloads a few days in, but is there any hope for it having a Pokémon Go-esque acceleration? I’m going to venture no – in which case, how well does a game in this genre have to perform to be sustainable and not be shut down within two years? We’ll have to wait and see. Just be careful with your coin in the meantime.

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