Why Does HPWU Suck

October 14, 2019 Renoir
Screenshot from HPWU showing a wizard losing XP after successfully completing a challenge.

HPWU is notoriously buggy.

According to the bean counters at Sensortower, during September Harry Potter: Wizards Undesirables was downloaded 1/10th as often as Pokemon-Go. That’s a big difference, but they also estimate that it’s earning 1/65th as much revenue as Pokemon-Go. These are stunning differences.

BTW, if you want to understand the sudden drive to monetize Ingress, just take a look at those revenue estimates.

It’s hard to believe that HPWU is struggling after the success of PoGo. Just like PoGo, HPWU is a well-established property with millions of fans around the world. HPWU is buggy as shit, just like PoGo and Ingress Prime, but it doesn’t make sense that wizards are so much more discerning about software quality than trainers or agents.

I’ve been struggling to understand the differences and I think that this article might have hit the nail on the head. Sami Kahn, from mobile game studio Cerberus Interactive, believes that HPWU is struggling to find an audience because the game mechanics don’t match the broader Harry Potter universe:

Catching Pokémon while walking around — well, that is Pokémon, isn’t it? Pokémon Go captures the core experience of that universe. Harry Potter is known for many things — Hogwarts, spells, Death Eaters, etc. — but very few of these happen while walking around.

The Harry Potter universe just happens to be a poor fit for the type of game that Niantic is used to producing. Unless they decided to make a Fantastic Beasts game but that would really be a copy of PoGo.

There’s another element that Sami Kahn addresses, and that’s Niantic’s failure to have open communication with their player community. They really do a poor job of addressing player concerns in a timely manner. This didn’t use to be the case, during the Ingress beta Niantic was very responsive to player concerns.

Screenshot from Ingress showing a new announcement that dropped items will be recycled faster.

Since when are dropped items recycled?

Most Ingress agents that I talked to were very appreciative that the new street sweeper notices were showing up in-game, instead of being posted to social media and passed around via Slack and Telegram channels. However, if you look closely, the verbiage of the notice, “dropped items will recycle faster”, is wrong. In Ingress you don’t drop items to recycle them, you drop them so that other agents can pick them up (a big reason for the notice is so that agents participating in dead drops don’t lose the items assuming they have more time than they really do) or to troll people by leaving crap all over the map in the game. Overall, the notice isn’t a bad thing, but it’s indicative of a growing divide between Niantic and it’s players as the people writing the notices don’t seem to understand the basic game mechanics.

So, why is HPWU under-performing PoGo? In a nutshell, they designed a game that doesn’t fit into the Harry Potter universe and they are failing to address player concerns in a timely manner.