After struggling to re-create the magic of the “Harry Potter” film franchise with the lackluster spinoff trilogy “Fantastic Beasts,” Warner Bros. has finally struck galleons anew with its latest piece of Wizarding World IP: video game “Hogwarts Legacy.”
The action role-playing game, produced by Warner Bros. Games and Avalanche Software, has clicked with Potterheads since its Feb. 10 release. Sales figures are yet to come, but it’s clear from the buzz factor and other measures — including sales charts in Japan, the U.K. and Europe — that fans are engaged. For one, the arrival of the game spurred the highest traffic in the “Harry Potter” community on fan platform Fandom in more than seven years.
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The second-highest traffic period for the Potter community on Fandom in recent years was during the 2018 release of the second “Fantastic Beasts” film. “Hogwarts Legacy”-driven page views bested that spike by 39% in just five days.
“The player engagement is spectacular,” David Haddad, Warner Bros. Games president, told Variety Feb. 16. “So far, we have tracked over 152 million hours played, 173 million magical plants grown, 115 million potions brewed and 556 million Dark Wizards defeated.”
Per updated stats provided to Variety on Tuesday by Warner Bros. Games, “Hogwarts Legacy” has now seen 267 million hours played, 393 million magical plants grown, 242 million potions brewed and 1.25 billion Dark Wizards defeated.
Warner Bros. sees “Hogwarts Legacy” as a long-term franchise.
“We are very pleased with the initial launch and see a bright future for our other platform launches,” Haddad says.
At the same time, the game’s arrival has sparked heated debate within the Harry Potter fandom, which has become increasingly distraught as author J.K. Rowling continues to publicly express views many perceive as offensive to transgender people. While Rowling didn’t participate creatively in the game, she benefits financially from its sales, prompting anxiety over whether playing it is tantamount to supporting anti-trans causes. The ongoing PR headache for Warner Bros. will likely only get more complicated when Rowling addresses her controversial statements on the podcast “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling,” which debuted Feb. 21.
“Hogwarts Legacy” also represents a renewed investment by Warner Bros. in creating triple-A video game titles based on its top franchises. As director James Gunn and producer Peter Safran take the reins of Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC Studios, part of their mandate is to shepherd gaming titles that are fully integrated into the DC universe they aim to create across film, television and animation. Gunn said last month at a press event on the Warner Bros. lot that DC’s games would serve as a storytelling bridge between scripted titles.
“Our goal is to continue to utilize our amazing library of Warner Bros. Discovery franchises as we develop our future slate of games,” Haddad says. And franchise is king when it comes to today’s content.
Some 70% of fans “will play a game simply because they are a fan of that franchise,” Fandom CEO Perkins Miller says, adding that it’s no surprise that “The Last of Us,” “Star Wars,” Marvel and “Harry Potter” all are having “huge success with cross-media franchises.”
“Hogwarts Legacy” is also notable because Warner Bros. is the last of Hollywood’s major studios to produce its own games rather than outsourcing the titles. Parent company Warner Bros. Discovery hopes gaming becomes a growth engine for the studio.
“We are fortunate and unique in being able to tell every kind of story at WBD, from fiction to nonfiction, movies to TV, and linear to interactive,” says JB Perrette, president and CEO of global streaming and games for WBD. “Our ability to develop and publish world-class games in-house sets us apart from other entertainment companies.”
Adam B. Vary contributed to this report.
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