Warning: Riderless Nimbus alert.
Niantic, the developers behind Pokemon Go, have released a brief teaser for its upcoming game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. While at first the footage might seem a bit random and out of place, there are a few hints it might give about exactly what this magical mobile game has in store.
The official Wizards Unite Twitter account posted the teaser (which can be seen below), along with a caption reading: “Several riderless broomsticks were spotted flying off erratically in the Muggle world. Stay alert for any other cases of unexplained magical activity and sign up for the Statute of Secrecy Task Force!”
Magic in the modern Muggle world
The trailer begins with a super-brief shot of a few Nimbus 2000 broomsticks flying above a highway, and quickly cuts to some sort of identification card that a law enforcement system would use to track a case.
This one, Trace No. 74: Riderless Nimbus, has had witnesses reports of “UFOs” going up 90% in the area – however, none of these have been attributed specifically to broomsticks, suggesting the muggle witnesses had no idea what they really were.
Soon after, we get a better look at the speed camera that captures the brooms flying 80km/h past a sign that says “Event Ahead.” In the corner of the video is a bunch of data indicating this occurred in Sydney, Australia on December 14, 2018. This tells us that the game is not only set in modern times (not the 1990s like the seven Harry Potter books or the 1920s like the Fantastic Beasts films) but that it takes place in a number of Muggle-filled cities across the world.
Looking up this trace on the official Muggle Unites website brings you to a brief description that says: “The Statute of Secrecy Task Force is doing everything in its power to track these rogue brooms before they are noticed by Muggle authorities. These brooms may split up in search of their natural sporting habitat, so keep an eye out around Muggle sport stadiums.”
This information, combined with the “Event Ahead” sign, suggests that this specific bit of footage has more in-line with possible gameplay mechanics than what might seem immediately obvious. These brooms were likely searching out a sporting event, meaning that in practice players could likely use alternate reality (AR) capabilities on their phones to see these brooms appear near these sporting events in real time, much like Niantic already does with Pokemon appearing in the wild across the world in Pokemon Go.
More than just finding Fantastic Beasts
Beyond the game taking place in a modern setting using real locations, it appears what players will be “capturing” aren’t just magical creatures, but instead magical traces that have leaked into the muggle world. In this case, it’s a “Riderless Nimbus” broomstick. But beyond simply pointing a phone’s camera toward a spot and seeing the broomstick zoom past, it looks like more player input will be necessary to capture the trace.
In Pokemon Go, players need to throw a pokeball at a Pokemon in front of them, timing and aiming it so it hits a point inside two circles. In this teaser, you can see two faint dotted arrow lines just above where the broomsticks are flying (which can be seen in the image below). Our best guess is that players will need to use touch gestures on their phone’s screen along with these in order to capture the trace, all while using their phone’s camera and AR capabilities. What’s more, the trace identification card in the teaser shows these same lines above an illustrated broomstick.
Interestingly, because this teaser shows off a magical object rather than a creature or spell, it’s possible the traces that players capture could be any number of things from the Harry Potter universe. It could be a golden snitch players would draw a circle around. Maybe it’s the trace of a Wingardium Leviosa (NOT Levio-sah) spell which players could capture by performing some sort of swish and flick gesture on their touchscreen.
Instead of boxing in this AR title as a spell-casting game, or another creature capturing game like Pokemon Go, it could run the gamut of Harry Potter objects, spells, beasts and everything in-between. In fact, the first teaser showed a mixture of this, with a young woman using an immobilizing spell to stop a rogue snitch before catching it. The possibilities of how this game will operate are still relatively vast, though combining the information from these two teasers narrows it down considerably.
Upholding the Statute of Secrecy
Lastly, like Pokemon Go, story elements in this game will likely be kept to a minimum. However, these teasers have set up a few key tentpoles for what we can likely expect from the narrative conceit the game gives players for capturing magical traces.
Both teasers, along with the game’s website, revolves around enlisting in a Statute of Secrecy Task Force. The Statute of Secrecy is an international law in the Harry Potter universe that was established in 1692 and is meant to protect Muggles from magic and keep the knowledge of the wizarding world secret at all costs. This task force, then, must be searching out anomalies of magic appearing in the Muggle world and stamping it out as to not endanger everyone: this is something the website may be referring to as “The Calamity.”
“Traces of magic are appearing across the Muggle world without warning and in a rather chaotic manner,” the official Wizards Unite website states. “We worry it is only a matter of time before even the most incurious Muggles catch wind of it. We call on all witches and wizards to help contain the Calamity or risk the worst of times since You Know Who. Brush up on your spells, get your wand ready, and enlist immediately.
“The Ministry is looking for witches and wizards willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer to save the wizarding world from the Calamity. As a member of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force (a new task force formed in partnership between the Ministry of Magic and the International Confederation of Wizards) you will hone lightning fast wand reflexes, an ability to sniff out the faintest whiff of magical disorder from afar, and proficiency in advanced casting of multiple spells.”
This text is accompanied by the image above, showing a magic exposure threat level meter. This same meter appears in the new teaser, suggesting a difficulty level for catching the Riderless Nimbus. It could also suggest an overall exposure-level mechanic, where local or even global players might have to work together to keep an overall exposure-level from hitting “Calamity,” succeeding or failing as a group.
Looking at all of this combined – the AR mechanics operating in a modern setting, capturing magical traces that aren’t confined to specific categories, and acting as part of a sort of magical law enforcement group to keep wizards and witches hidden from Muggles – all suggests a dynamic, interesting experience that could be similar to Pokemon Go, but distinct enough to become its own phenomenon.
For more on Wizards Unite, check out its first teaser and details that were revealed last month, and read about how the game reportedly won’t impact Pokemon Go.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is coming sometime in 2019.
Colin Stevens is a news writer for IGN, and he thinks Deathly Hallows is easily the best Harry Potter book. Don’t @ him on Twitter.