Not exactly the legacy they want.
With the open-world RPG Harry Potter game whose existence was leaked way back in 2018 finally revealed to the world, it should have been a slam dunk of an announcement. Perhaps at one time, it would have been.
But Hogwarts Legacy has instead found itself embroiled in controversy over its tacit association with the original author of the Wizarding World.
In an official FAQ, the publisher of the new Harry Potter game from Portkey Games – a WB Games subsidiary specifically for Harry Potter games – and Avalanche Software emphasised that “J.K. Rowling is not directly involved” in its development. It comes as calls for a boycott of the game hit social media over the author’s litany of problematic comments on transgender issues.
It’s not the first time such an FAQ has denied the author’s involvement. 2018’s Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery mobile game FAQ also featured such a disclaimer. However, the latest FAQ has arguably greater significance now given that in the intervening two years J.K. Rowling has come under greater fire. Whilst in 2018 she was criticised for liking a transphobic tweet in what her PR people called a “middle-aged moment”, the author has since made her own controversial comments about transgender issues.
The increasing backlash against J.K. Rowling and just how it might affect them has never been lost on the game’s developers. Bloomberg reported that many in the team felt “uncomfortable” when the studio’s management didn’t address the author’s comments.
WB Games was more cagey over the potential royalties the author might earn from Hogwarts Legacy, with a spokesperson declining further comment to Kotaku. Whatever the financial arrangement, unlike gaming boycotts – of, say, Ubisoft, Riot Games, Blizzard, Naughty Dog and EA, where their bottom line is often the target as a means of engendering change in said companies – this boycott appears more symbolic and personal. As the first significant Harry Potter product to be revealed since the author’s most recent comments, many might see this as an opportunity to distance themselves from the author and a once-beloved franchise that’s become toxic by association.
We’ll have to see if WB Games can do anything more to reassure fans before Hogwarts Legacy’s release in 2021.