Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery got off to an unfortunate start for developer Jam City.
An RPG that puts players into the role of a Hogwarts student as they progress through the years learning magic and making friends and rivalries, its particular choice of monetisation became a point of contention for many.
While negative press attention on the free-to-play mobile games space is nothing new, criticism specifically focused on the harsh energy system the title utilises. If that energy meter runs empty, players must wait for a timer to count down or spend money on in-app purchases to progress.
Players are also asked to wait for new narrative missions to become available, or unlock those with gems. The paywall was something our sister-site Pocket Gamer was also less than impressed with in its review.
Facing off the backlash
As our IAP Inspector notes, this time-gating mechanic is used as a way to retain players over the long-term by keeping them coming back for more. While players could spend hundreds of dollars to instantly complete every mission, the idea for the most part is to wait between play sessions.
But for those that want to keep on playing during a session without paying, it has proven a frustrating experience for some.
One particularly unfortunate scene depicted a teenage character being suffocated by a sentient plant. To stop this, players would even have to wait for their energy to refill - which takes hours - or pay to progress.
Such a backlash has seemingly even been enough to prompt Jam City into testing new pricing, with players reporting the same bundles at different prices.
But while the title has received strong criticism at launch, particularly focused on its monetisation, the game has seemingly defied the critics of its monetisation - or perhaps it is that very reason - and become a top grossing mobile game.
According to App Annie data, on April 26th Hogwarts Mystery broke into the US App Store top 10 grossing chart at third for games, before peaking at second a few days later.
It remained a top 10 grossing game until May 12th. While fluctuating somewhat, it’s been in the top 20 ever since.
It’s not just the US where the title has had early success though. In the UK it spent five days as the top grossing App Store game at launch, and has been a stalwart in the top 10.
In France, Italy and Germany meanwhile, Hogwarts Mystery has been a top 10 grossing App Store game since launch - slipping outside of this for one day in Germany.
The title was also released in the lucrative but highly competitive Japanese mobile market. Here the title hasn’t done so well, but it has reached the top 100 grossing ranks. As of May 20th it sits at 157th in the top grossing games chart.
Ahead of the pack
It remains to be seen whether Hogwarts Mystery has the longevity to hold its top grossing position. But Jam City will surely be pleased with the game’s strong start.
Indeed, the title's IAP sales have outperformed Jam City’s biggest titles in key markets like the US.
Match-three game Cookie Jam fluctuated around 60th in the top grossing games chart, while bubble shooter Panda Pop averaged around 50th place.
For a studio that has struggled to find new successes on the level of those two titles, Hogwarts Mystery has been a much-needed success, at least in the short-term. And it’s one achieved even in the face of vocal criticism.
The game’s early IP-powered performance should also offer an early indicator of what could be achieved by Niantic’s upcoming location-based Pokemon Go-like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
You can expect that to be a top grosser from the off.