- Game developer Niantic will host its first live festival for fans of "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite," its recently launched mobile game that combines characters from the fantasy books and movies with the augmented reality (AR) playability of "Pokémon Go." The "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Fan Festival" will be in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31 to Sep. 1, per a company blog post.
- Attendees can buy tickets to attend the festival, although Niantic hasn't announced prices yet. A section of the game's website says special hotel rates are available for the festival though Visit Indy, the state's tourism board. Niantic says it will provide updated information about the event through in-game news and social channels.
- The festival follows Niantic's past events for AR games "Ingress" and "Pokémon Go." The company hosted the third-annual "Pokémon Go Fest" in Chicago earlier this month. The sold-out event had a single-day admission price of $25, per its website.
The announcement for the "Wizards Unite" festival comes amid signs that the game isn't gaining as much traction as was expected. Mobile users downloaded "Wizards Unite" 4.7 million times in its first six days, a fraction of the 32 million downloads that "Pokémon Go" generated during the same period after its release in July 2016, according to Sensor Tower estimates cited by The Wall Street Journal. "Wizards Unite" has so far generated much less revenue, reaching $1.9 million in its first six days, compared with $50 million for "Pokémon Go," per Sensor Tower.
While it's unclear exactly why "Wizards Unite" isn't performing better, it's been eight years since the last "Harry Potter" movie was released and 12 years since the final book in the seven-part chronicle was published. That means Niantic doesn't benefit from the huge promotional dollars that go into current releases of movies and books. The lackluster results for "Wizards Unite" may also indicate mobile users have grown fatigued with AR gameplay. Many players of "Pokémon Go" have turned off its AR features because they're too cumbersome, The Wall Street Journal reported. Other reviews say "Wizards Unite" doesn't let them achieve goals within the game quickly enough without having to pay real money for virtual goods.
The lack of gamer interest likely will hamper Niantic's efforts to gain sponsors for "Wizards Unite." AT&T this month became the first brand to sponsor the game. The telecom giant became an indirect owner of the video game rights to "Harry Potter" when it acquired Time Warner last year.
Niantic's first live event for "Wizards Unite" seeks to bring together fans of the recently launched game in the same way that its festivals for "Ingress" and "Pokémon Go" helped to build communities and excitement around popular game franchises. Because the games urge people to explore their real-life surroundings as they interact with digital creatures through their smartphones, they're well-suited for outdoor event tie-ins. The growth in Niantic's live events indicate the company has overcome some early hiccups, as seen at its first "Pokémon Go Fest" that some reviewers described as a "disaster."