Harry Potter augmented reality game arrives a day early

By Thom Craver

/ CBS News

Harry Potter fans can now unite together in a new augmented reality (AR) game out today for mobile phones. The launch of "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite" was originally announced for Friday, but keen eyes have observed it became available to install in both the Google Play store and Apple App Store earlier Thursday.

The AR game was developed by Niantic in collaboration with WB Games. Niantic is the same company that developed the popular Pokemon Go augmented reality game several years ago. In the Pokemon version, players change around trying to capture the infamous Nintendo pocket monsters in the real world.

The new Harry Potter game invites players to join the Statute of Secrecy Task Force to help the Ministry of Magic with a calamity in the wizarding world. After creating your witch wizard's code name, players can catch magical creatures, cast spells, create potions and find magical "traces" around locations in the real "muggle" world. A spokesperson for WB Games said the game will have a multiyear story arc revolving around the calamity, making it a "forever game."

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In 2016, Pokemon Go's popularity caused server crashes and game outages. Niantic took even more heat when software issues prevented players from even logging in during a failed festival celebrating the game. The game developer had to refund attendees the festival ticket price and an additional $100 worth of Pokecoins, the in-app game currency. Gamers will be wary of similar mishaps with "Harry Potter: Wizards United."

First announced in 2017, Niantic and WB Games San Francisco say it would eventually be available in 19 languages including English, French, Spanish, Japanese and both simplified and traditional Chinese. With today's surprise launch, the game is now available in the U.S. and U.K. The game has also been in beta testing in both New Zealand and Australia for about a month.

First published on June 20, 2019 / 3:10 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Thom Craver

Thom is a technical analyst for CBS Interactive.

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