Pottermore doesn't live up to hype

In Pottermore, users can brew potions as a way of earning house points. Users can also cast spells and duel each other in order to help their house win the House Cup. (credit: Courtesy of Sony) In Pottermore, users can brew potions as a way of earning house points. Users can also cast spells and duel each other in order to help their house win the House Cup. (credit: Courtesy of Sony)

Many Harry Potter fans desperately wished for a Hogwarts acceptance letter for their 11th birthday, only to be bitterly disappointed. Now, over 10 years after Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published, Harry Potter fans are eagerly awaiting a different sort of acceptance letter: the opportunity to register for Pottermore, an interactive online website developed by J.K. Rowling alongside Sony and digital agency TH_NK. Although the website doesn’t open to the public until October, fans who completed a “Magic Quill Challenge” on the website in early August were allowed to register early; 1 million fans will be selected to access the site early in its beta stage.

Pottermore takes its users through each Harry Potter book chapter by chapter. Each chapter has several “Moments,” interactive illustrations of scenes from that chapter, into which users can navigate and from which they can occasionally collect items, such as books, potion ingredients, or Galleons. Along the way, users can discover special content that Rowling wrote about some of the characters; they can save this character information or particular chapters in their “Favourites.” This special content is currently the most compelling feature of Pottermore. One of the reasons Harry Potter fans love the series so much is the amount of care and detail Rowling put into creating the wizarding universe, and the special content reveals the thorough backstory she created for the wizarding world. The story provided about Professor McGonagall, for instance, is beautifully detailed and touching, guaranteeing that fans will see her in a whole new light.

As Harry Potter gains access to the wizarding world in the first book, so, too, do Pottermore users; when Harry goes to Ollivander’s Wand Shop in chapter five, the Pottermore user also receives a wand — complete with information about what the wood type and wand core signify — and the Pottermore user is sorted into a Hogwarts house alongside Harry. Users can brew potions or duel other users to earn house points in an attempt to win the House Cup.

Despite these attempts to immerse users into the world of Harry Potter, Pottermore doesn’t quite live up to expectations. For one, the ability to interact with each Moment is frustratingly limited; although they are beautifully illustrated, and have the occasional Galleon or book that a user can collect, after a while, it feels like one is merely scrolling through pictures just to find Rowling’s special content. Also, there aren’t many ways for Pottermore users to truly interact — although users can add one another as friends, they have no way of directly communicating with one another. The common rooms for the houses have just one list of comments that house members have made, with no way for members to directly respond to each other or have actual conversations. This might have been done on purpose in an attempt to protect users — Rowling has stated that she wanted Pottermore to be a safe environment for all ages — but it prevents a true sense of community from developing, without which Pottermore’s users will probably start to neglect the site once they have gone through all the books and the novelty has worn off.

The website is still in beta, however, and hopefully as Pottermore further develops and adjusts to the feedback it receives from users, it can flourish into an online experience that can fully do justice to the magic of the Harry Potter series.