Interview

Live and Kicking: How Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery graduated to its sophomore year with flying colours

Live and Kicking: How Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery graduated to its sophomore year with flying colours

It is often said that nothing is truly finished and it's a saying the games industry has taken to heart in recent times.

Long gone are the days of developing and publishing a game without the need to tweak, adjust and patch it after launch, with new titles requiring constant operation and updates to keep them at the forefront of consumer thought.

Here at PocketGamer.biz we want to take the opportunity to highlight games that have bucked the trend and found an audience that has kept them thriving long after launch.

In this entry of our Live and Kicking series, we spoke to Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery director Sarah Wolf regarding the two-year anniversary of the game.

PocketGamer.biz: With Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery now two years old, how do you reflect on its performance - from launch to the mature title it is now?

Sarah Wolf: From the beginning, our mission has always been to deliver the quintessential Hogwarts RPG experience where fans could live out their fantasy of being a wizard or a witch. Our team is incredibly passionate about delivering this experience, and that has been the ultimate key to our success. Even after two years, it feels like we're just getting started.

How big is the team currently handling live ops on the game?

We have 53 talented team members spanning various departments working on this title.

How important do you consider customer support and updates to be? What has been your approach to this?

We want our players to have the best experience possible, so customer support has always been and continues to be a priority focus for our team. The game development team checks in multiple times a day with our customer support team to triage any issues our players encounter and to help improve the game.

We also strive to incorporate player feedback when we tackle design decisions for the game and spend a lot of time conducting research. This happens in various forms, including in-game surveys, live interviews with players, and prototype click-throughs of new features.

What steps have you taken to ensure that Hogwarts Mystery maintains a sizable and active player base all this time after its launch?

Focusing on quality content and giving players more things to explore in the wizarding world they know and love has helped us maintain a dedicated and active player base. We've added a plethora of collections, events, and side quests for players to enjoy while they progress through the game including magical creatures, customizable dorm rooms, pets – and of course, Quidditch!

Just because you have a certain design in mind when you create a game, doesn't mean it won't evolve in ways you never expected.
Sarah Wolf

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery exploded in popularity because players were seeking an expansion to the world and story they love so much. Knowing that's what brought players to our game, we've focused heavily on narrative content which remains a big draw for fans. Some examples of this include side quests where you can deepen your Hogwarts experience, such as becoming an Animagus, discovering your Patronus, or being a prefect.

We've also expanded ways for players to express themselves, which has only helped to further grow the game. We didn't expect customizations to be so popular, but now we have hundreds of avatar outfits, pet skins, and furniture items for dorm rooms – with much more to come!

Any KPIs such as downloads or DAUs that you’re willing to share?

When Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery first launched, it quickly topped the charts as the #1 most downloaded mobile game in over 40 countries, including U.S. and Canada. The game most recently surpassed 35 billion minutes of gameplay just in time for the game's second anniversary.

To date, our players have also played 50 million Quidditch matches, cast 2 billion spells and have taken over 2 million OWL exams. This continues to show how dedicated and engaged our fans are, and we're excited to carry this success forward and introduce even more content for players.

What lessons have you learned/are you still learning from Hogwarts Mystery? Is there anything about the game that, in hindsight, you'd now handle differently?

I've gained a lot of insight into the motivations behind Harry Potter fans and what kind of content really engages them. Just because you have a certain design in mind when you create a game, doesn't mean it won't evolve in ways you never expected.

If we had known how much self-expression would resonate with our players, we would have designed our systems and processes around this type of content right out of the gates. I feel fortunate that we've had the flexibility to pivot and swiftly incorporate this love for customization.

We've since implemented a multitude of ways in which players can express themselves in-game through costumes, dialogue choices, side quests, additional pet breeds and there’s even more on the way!

Finally, how has your experience with Hogwarts Mystery informed where you are and what you're working on now?

We're continuing to expand our content and bring fun features that tap into the magic our players expect when they come to Hogwarts. We have plenty of exciting updates planned for the year, including new side quests where players will get a chance to meet some of their favorite and most memorable characters from the books.


Editor

Ric is the Editor of PocketGamer.biz, having started out as a Staff Writer on the site back in 2015. He received an honourable mention in both the MCV and Develop 30 Under 30 lists in 2016 and refuses to let anyone forget about it.

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