Pottermore is here – for some. I was lucky enough to be one of the people who’ve received early access, and I’ve now assembled a spoiler-free review of J.K. Rowling’s latest Harry Potter project!
Read on to learn if Pottermore lives up to the pre-release excitement and how long you’ll be interested in using it for.
Nothing in the Harry Potter fandom directly from J.K. Rowling has been as anticipated as Pottermore since the Deathly Hallows book was released. That’s thanks in part to the teases that have come along since the author announced the new website in June. There was first the seven letters than fans had to put together (“It’s either ‘More Potter’ or ‘Potter More’!”). Then there was the video announcement telling us to “Follow the Owl.” Then we learned how we were going to compete to be one of the first million beta testers. And then we slowly but surely started getting access.
And that’s where we are today. As of this writing, about 28,000 students are enrolled at Hogwarts and Ravenclaw takes the lead in student count. A far cry, however, from the 1 million who have been promised beta period access.
To me, the most important question about Pottermore is this: How will it help enhance our fandom? One would think that a Harry Potter project with “By J.K. Rowling” stamped on it is a sure-fire way to keep new excitement brewing. I do believe that is true for Pottermore, and Jo has earned it thanks to the great writing found within.
Since learning about Pottermore the number one thing that has had me most excited is the new content. This is likely the closest thing we’re getting to an Encyclopedia – something fans have wanted for years.
As you go through each chapter in Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone (currently the only book available in Pottermore), you’ll come across pages labeled ‘New from J.K. Rowling.’ These are the most exciting part of the site. There you’ll find entries – sometimes paragraphs, sometimes pages in length – that are entirely new and capture the same spirit and charm that Rowling had while writing her series.
For Jo and her readers, it’s always been about the little things. In Pottermore you’ll learn how the Ministry of Magic decided to create the Hogwarts Express, why Jo wanted students to pass through Platform 9 ¾, why Ollivander is THE wandmaker, and so much more. It is a pleasure to be reading this new material and it reminds you why you love the series.
The new content within Pottermore is surrounded by many other features. Each chapter is structured with one to three “moments”. When entering a “moment” you will be greeted with a beautiful piece of artwork that relates to that part of the story. Standout artwork is plentiful, but I was particularly struck by the art in Chapters 10 and 11.
Within the artwork are items that you can collect for later use or to unlock new material from Jo. This user experience is similar to that of Jo’s official website. Prior to the release of the books fans would have to explore her site and find hidden secrets in order to unlock content and news. By mimicking elements of Jo’s original site, the Pottermore team has captured something that fans have missed dearly.
At the end of each chapter you will see a list of new material that could be found in the moments you just browsed through. This is very handy because sometimes you may miss an item that you should’ve clicked on.
Unfortunately some moments are very bare. By that I mean the only thing to discover was a hidden galleon to collect and use in a shop later. In those areas Pottermore needs to add something else to ensure that fans don’t get bored moving through the book.
Two of the standout features are the wand selection and being sorted. With each you will be asked a few questions (written by Jo) so that Pottermore can make a decision. Honestly, leading up to the Sorting Hat chapter all I wanted to do was be sorted. I clicked through everything fast without reading. It would be nice for you to be able to jump to the sorting process when you first begin, but I also understand why this would be silly (you need to travel through the story just like Harry!). By the way: I was sorted into Gryffindor and my wand was a fir with dragon core, twelve and a half inches, and reasonably supple.
There are a few features that hurt the Pottermore experience.
– There is no sound anywhere on the site. No music, no sound effects. This is great for people who like to listen to their own music all the time, but bad for people who want to feel more immersed.
– Receiving friend requests is frustrating because you do not know who is sending you the request unless your friend has told you outside of the site what their Pottermore name is. The only way to see your real friends on Pottermore is by connecting your account to Facebook. Once connected you can see a list of your Facebook friends who are on Pottermore. But, connecting your Facebook account does not tell you the names of any incoming friend requests regardless of whether or not you are Facebook friends.
– Various areas of the site let you leave a comment. No offense to Pottermore’s users, but comments do not add much to the site. And they’re only going to get less useful as more and more people join the site.
– Anyone worried about this being a social network need not panic. Since the beginning Pottermore has strived to make this as child-friendly as possible. That means the site lacks simple social networking features like inputting your own name (luckily you can add a nickname to people you are friends with), writing a user profile, sending private messages to friends, uploading photos of yourself, etc. This is great for kids but bad for anyone hoping to actually make friends through Pottermore.
Other things to do in Pottermore include challenging your friend to a duel, brewing (unpleasantly precise) potions, and learning how to cast spells. These are fun a few times but can lose their charm after a while.
Overall, Pottermore is a fantastically detailed and intriguing site that holds short term excitement but lacks long term promise. Excitement will be revived when new books are added to Pottermore, but in between those books I cannot see a reason for users to continue returning to the site. The new content from Jo, being sorted, and receiving your wand will give you great reason to become a member, but don’t count on Pottermore to give you a daily Potter fill.