Pottermore: An Inside Scoop

On July 15th, 2011, those attending LeakyCon 2011 were given an inside preview of the Pottermore website by Melissa Anelli, who is a senior creative consultant on Pottermore, as well as another representative, Jamie, who is the greater authority on the subject of the two. Jamie’s presentation included 86 slides, as well as an exclusive live view of the Pottermore website for the audience.

The presentation went well over its allotted time, and there was a lot shown to an understandably very reactive and very excited audience. We were told at the beginning of the presentation that no pictures would be allowed, so this first shot is the only one I have, but there was nothing said about taking notes and reporting on it.

Please keep in mind that this review includes spoilers. So, if you don’t want to know anything before Pottermore is released, I would suggest that you stop reading right now. Otherwise, continue reading!

About the Pottermore Experience: Beginning

Before reading any further, I would suggest reading my first article about Pottermore, as it has some preliminary information about Pottermore that was released prior to this presentation at LeakyCon. If I double up on some of that information, so much the better.

First of all, as you set up your new Pottermore account. You will not be allowed to create your own username. For example, I might have created “aehanson”. Instead, Pottermore gives you a list of five random Potter-related usernames with a number associated with each one from which to choose. This may sound like a bummer, but child safety has been one of the top priorities for the Pottermore team, so this really makes sense. Not allowing users to create their own username discourages them from revealing too much about themselves to the rest of the public world.

While I do not have screenshots on this website of Pottermore, you can find some at the Pottermore Press Room. When you look at them, picture this: you roll over different layers, starting with Privet Drive, then the Cupboard Under the Stairs, each represented as a “moment” in Pottermore, which ties closely in with each chapter in which each moment is first seen. In each “moment”, you can manipulate the world around you. You can turn on the lights in the cupboard, and more importantly, you can discover and collect new information about each object or related character, plus some more informal reflections from J.K. Rowling about that new content.

From Privet Drive, of course, you are, as Harry is, invited to learn magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But, before you go to Hogwarts, you have to visit Diagon Alley to purchase your school supplies. Here is where the experience becomes less encyclopedic (with new information) and much more interactive. You can open a virtual bank account at Gringotts, where you are given a certain number of galleons. These galleons are given free of charge, because the website is, and always will be, free to use. However, it is not clear now how many galleons will be initially given or if it is possible to earn more, and if it is, how that is done. Presumably, the Pottermore team will use the beta phase to work that out.

After you get your galleons at Gringotts, you have to complete your Hogwarts shopping list, by going to each shop in Diagon Alley that is mentioned in the first book. As each book is released on Pottermore, shops that are first mentioned in those books will be added to the experience at Diagon Alley then. Of course, among these supplies is a wand, and as we’ve learned already, there are 33,000 possible wand combinations at Ollivander’s. As we already know, the wand chooses the wizard, so what wasn’t clear before is how Pottermore knows the wizard so the wand could choose him.

That question was answered at this presentation. Just like questions will presented to the user when he puts on the sorting hat, questions will also be presented at Ollivander’s so the wand knows enough about the user to choose him, though different types of questions, probably. This makes sense, because it tends to be that those in Slytherin have dragon heart-string cores with dark woods surrounding them, for example. In the end, I want to make clear that the wand selection process at Ollivander’s is not random, as I previously thought it was, which is awesome.

On the Journey to Hogwarts, just as you collect objects at Privet Drive, you also collect objects on the Hogwarts Express, such as chocolate frog cards, which are then added to your “trunk”. The Entrance Hall follows the Hogwarts Express and then sorting. Sorting, as we know, will be a one-time event. This may upset some people, especially those who have known for ten years or more what house to which they believe they belong, but while we know ourselves better than Jo knows us, she knows the houses better than we do, so I am fine with allowing Jo, and by extension, Pottermore, to be the final authority on whichever house I’m sorted into when I answer the seven or so random questions.

The sorting hat questions are not obvious ones, such as, “Are you brave, smart, cunning, or loyal?” Instead, there are questions like “Four boxes are presented in front of you. Which would you choose to open? Bronze, black, gold, etc.” Not each choice is necessarily associated with a certain house. You may be wondering, “What happens if there’s a tie between two houses?” That is what’s called a “hat stall”. Harry experienced a hat stall too, when the sorting hat believed he could do well in either Slytherin or Gryffindor. McGonagall experienced the same, between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Both characters, of course, chose Gryffindor, so we know that the user’s choice plays a factor in what the sorting hat chooses for you. So, it is possible, in the event of a hat stall, that we can choose for ourselves, between two houses, which one we ourselves prefer.

After you are sorted into your house, you receive a welcome message into your house, with more information about it. If you are sorted into Hufflepuff, you receive more information than you would receive if sorted into another house. Of course, that makes sense, because we’ve visited the Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw common rooms during the course of the books, so they have been described for us, but not the Hufflepuff common room. Actually, common rooms will be a great place to leave comments for others in your own house, and the Great Hall will become a place to leave comments for others in other houses. What happens, though, if you’re sorted into one house, but you want to learn more about the other houses? Another thing that is not yet clear, though I presume you’ll be able to share that information with one another somehow.

Also in the Great Hall is the leader-board for house points. How does one earn house points for one’s house? So far, we know that we can earn points through dueling (which is a very interactive experience) and through making potions, the ingredients for which can be purchased in Diagon Alley. House points will continue to be earned during a particular “year at Hogwarts” until the next book is released on Pottermore. So, just before the Chamber of Secrets “moments” are released, the House Cup will be announced, and so on with the remaining books.

Logistical Questions about Pottermore, with Answers

  • When will Sorcerer’s Stone be released on Pottermore? Sorcerer’s Stone will be when Pottermore is. So, when the beta is released on July 31st for a select million users, and officially to everyone in October.
  • When will the Harry Potter ebooks be released? The ebooks will be released in October with Pottermore’s official release.
  • Does one have to buy the ebooks in order to use Pottermore? No. You may read the hardcovers or paperbacks you already own while using Pottermore, or you can simply use the site without reading along (though I daresay that would hinder the enjoyment of the experience).
  • When will Chamber of Secrets be released on Pottermore? Early to mid-2012, not January as I previously supposed.
  • What is Jo Rowling’s involvement in Pottermore? Jo is very involved. It was her idea, and it was created as a “thank you” to the fans. She has written all the new content that will be released on Pottermore, 18,000 words and counting, and all the details in the accompanying illustrations are from canon and have been approved by Jo. Mascot emblems have been painstakingly done and approved by Jo.
  • When Jo said “Follow the Owl” in her announcement, did she mean “follow @theowl” on Twitter? She most certainly did not.
  • Will Pottermore be released in languages other than English? Yes, it will be released in several major languages (I can’t remember which) starting in July, with Japanese coming in October, others perhaps to come later.
  • Will Pottermore be made available for mobile apps? There is a plan to have mobile apps, but those are not available as of yet. The Pottermore team may even incorporate the ebooks into the mobile app experience, but again, not yet.
  • Will Jo print an encyclopedia of all this information one day? It is a distinct possibility, but there are no plans for it as of now, and if it does happen, it’ll be in the distant future, and proceeds will most likely go to charity.
  • Will there be an interactive Quidditch experience? Let me be very clear: this is not going to be a video game, so Quidditch will be not be a video-game-like experience. It will be treated as a “moment”, most likely, as the other “moments” from the chapters in Pottermore.

Exclusive Information About Major Characters

Very briefly during this presentation, Jamie showed some pages of never-before-seen content, at least not by the public eye. I was able to quickly jot down a couple tidbits of information before he moved onto the next slide (to the obvious dismay of the audience).

Vernon Dursley and Petunia Evans met at work. He thought she was “deliciously normal”.

Professor McGonagall’s father was a Presbyterian minister by the name of Reverend Robert McGonagall. More information about her Ministry career as well as early heartbreak will also be revealed through Pottermore. Personally, I find her lineage very interesting, and I can’t wait to learn more.

Where to Go for More Information

Pottermore has three official channels: the blog (insider.pottermore.com), the official website (pottermore.com), and the Twitter account (@pottermore). Actually, of the three, the blog was most recently opened, and desktop images can be found there.

Finally, I might suggest coming back here for more information later, if I am allowed to provide it. Actually, the attendees of LeakyCon were given a “special chance” to get into the beta phase of the website, so I hold high hopes of getting in on July 31st. But, we’ll have to see! Good luck to me!

Update: After reading several tweets from fellow LeakyCon attendees about their concern that they hadn’t received an email from LeakyCon yet, as we had been promised we would, I wrote this through several tweets on my personal Twitter account: “LeakyCon’ers: I don’t believe that there was anything said about getting into @pottermore ‘earlier’ than anyone else. I believe that July 31st is the ‘start’ date for some challenge to determine who gets to be a beta tester. We’re probably not going to get any information ‘earlier’ than anyone else. We’re probably going to get ‘extra’ information that the others won’t have to help our chances to figure out the ‘puzzle’ or ‘challenge’. I personally don’t expect an email from @LeakyCon2011 until after the one from @pottermore. I might be wrong.”

I hope this clears up any misconception that we’re going to get any information early or even get into Pottermore early, because I don’t think that’s the case. But, like I said, I might be wrong too. I don’t pretend to have any inside information, because I don’t work for LeakyCon (Update: I do now) or Pottermore.

  • Francisco

    I have a question. Aren’t we going to read the books from the site? Are we going to be on the site while reading the printed books???

  • The Pottermore Shop, which will be released in October after the Beta process is completed, will be the exclusive place to buy the Harry Potter eBooks. It will also be a place to buy the audiobooks. You will not be able to read the text of the books on Pottermore–that’s not the purpose of this website. You can, however, read new information written by J.K. Rowling that we haven’t read before alongside (while reading) the printed books. So “no” to the first question, but “yes” to the second question. I hope this information helps!

  • Rita

    Thank you so much for the information, it was lovely to read the whole Pottermore journey! I just have one question: what will happen when every book has been released and the House Cup after ”Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is announced? Everything starts over…?
    I’m sorry if this seems like a silly question, I’m am just a bit confused about this part 😡

  • Rita

    *I did not know my emoticon was going turn into that icon (sorry!)

  • Oh thanks for this article. <3 very informative and only serving to make me more excited. I love all of this and just can't wait!

  • That’s a great question, Rita. I don’t even know the answer to that one. A while back I sent a few questions to @pottermore on Twitter, but with no response. I should start another article with a list of questions to ask someone from the Pottermore team, if the opportunity should ever present itself, say for example, if I go to another Con next year.

  • Rita

    Oh, okay! Thank you, I hope you get to go to another Con :’D
    Once again, thank you so much for all the information :’D

  • @ Rita: I don’t think it’s linear like that. The picture of the Gryffindor Gateway shows that different people can be at different parts of the game at different times. When you’re in your 4th year, there’ll be 1st years. Of course, there’ll be inconsistencies–how can one person be doing saving the Philosopher’s Stone while another participates in the Triwizard Tournament–but wouldn’t those happen anyway, since logically, how can 2 people save the Philosopher’s Stone at the same time without working together (surely it won’t be all the users doing the same things at once!)? That’s just what makes the most sense to me.

  • @GlowSnidget84 Actually, I think Pottermore might be more linear than you think. As I wrote above (just before the logistical questions section):

    So, just before the Chamber of Secrets “moments” are released, the House Cup will be announced, and so on with the remaining books.

    So, the house cup for every year will be released just before the next year’s “moments” are released. However, you bring up a very valid point. What about those users who are not like us–those who didn’t register for early access, or even (dare I say it) those users who don’t register for it in October? What about those who register months or years from now? What about the users who aren’t even born yet?

    There has to be some way for those future students of Hogwarts to enjoy the same experience that will be open to us in just a few days or weeks. So, in a way, I think you’re quite right in that the “House Cup” will either start over at the end of Deathly Hallows, or even, as you say, be a simultaneous continuous event, with students of various “years” at Hogwarts collecting points for their house.

    I am very interested to see how this will work now! Thanks so much for the comment!

  • spellcaster

    it’s going to be really complicated once this starts. i thank Jo for doing this. it helps keep the Harry Potter spirit alive even when the books and the movies are done.

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  • André

    Hey! I have a few questions about Pottermore.
    I’m going to register in the site only in October, like many other people, and I don’t know much about Pottermore. Could you explain how it works, please? I would be very thankful!

    Thank you ! 🙂

  • @Andre: Thanks for your question. Pottermore is broken into chapters and “moments” from those chapters. Each “moment” has its own unique artwork associated with it, plus items, wizard cards, or books that you can find in them. Actually, it could be considered by some as one big “flash” game, but it’s more than that. It’s an interactive experience. It is part scavenger hunt, but it’s also part potion-making game, or part dueling game. But the real driving force behind Pottermore is its encyclopedic quality, giving details about characters, creatures, locations, and items as you come across them, but more importantly, the new exclusive content written by J.K. Rowling. I know this is a bit vague coming from a person who’s experienced it all, directed towards a person who has experienced none of it, but perhaps I should write another post explaining how it works from start to finish, something I can’t really do briefly in a comment such as this. Come back for more! Thanks!

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  • Andin

    Can you estimate what will happen after the seventh year ?

  • André

    @Andrew thank you for the info!
    But… one more little thing. I read that “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” has already been released.
    How does the selection for the teams work? I mean… by the time I enter in Pottermore, teams will already be made. So, how will I be selected? Or am I the one who’s going to choose if I’ll be in Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw ?

    And what are the challenges that I will have once registred on Pottermore?

    Thank you por your attention!

  • @Andre: Here’s what I wrote above: “When will Sorcerer’s Stone be released on Pottermore? Sorcerer’s Stone will be when Pottermore is. So, when the beta is released on July 31st for a select million users, and officially to everyone in October.” Actually, the release date was August 15th for beta users. I was among the first few thousand that were let in on the first day. So, yes, the Sorcerer’s Stone has already been released, but only to beta users.

    You don’t get to “choose teams”. Everyone, from beta users to post-beta users (in October), will “put on” the Sorting Hat, take a quiz of sorts, and let the Hat decide which Hogwarts House is the right one for you.

    “Challenges”, if I understand you correctly, mean opportunities to earn points for your house. Currently they come in the form of dueling (which has been under maintenance for beta users for quite some time now) and brewing potions. Ravenclaw is in the lead right now! (Hooray for my house!)

  • André


    Yes, you understood me correctly.
    Thank you, one more time! 🙂

  • John

    Hey! Wasn’t the pottermore site to be already available for everyone, since yesterday? Do you know about something?

  • WolfWizard147

    The website is now avaliable for everyone to REGISTER. If you read http://www.pottermoreinside.com, you’ll get tons of valuable info such as this and knowing that they plan to continue to space out welcome letters like they did at BETA. Because they are still working out issues and so many people are interested, they have decided to space letters out so as to no overload the servers. Everyone can register immediately, but they still have to wait a little to actually log in.

  • Kara

    15th july is my birthday, & i didn’t get into pottermore beta?!?!?! i’m officilly giving up on Karma!

  • Karina Sorenson

    Super excited!!!!!!1!!!! =D I bet when I get my email I will scream.
    Is it recommended to read the books while you are playing the game, right before I start playing, or should I just have the book next to me a a reference book to look things up?

    I am really nervous for the sorting. I have never truly know what house I would be in. I have had different “phases”. When I first read the books I thought I was a total Griffindor, then I put myself in Hufflepuff. But right now I think I am a Slytherin (Not every Slytherin is evil, just look at Andromeda Tonks nee Black and Merlin.)

    Thanks for posting this.

  • I’ve pretty much just given up all hope on Pottermore, at this point. They’re taking FOREVER to open the site, and quite frankly, it’s getting annoying. See, I knew this would happen. If they made people wait too long, then the people would eventually get tired of all the waiting, and move on. Therefore, that makes them less likely to join once the site actually does open to the public. I mean, because really, I would assume that the audience the site is directed at is preteens/teenagers. And I myself, being a teenager, know that we are a very impatient species. Lol. But it’s the truth, though. With most of us, when we want something, don’t make us wait, or we get annoyed.

  • When can I explore the chamber of secrets.

  • I don’t have any concrete answer to that question, but there was an official response to that question on the Pottermore Twitter account, vague though it was, the day before you posted your comment (May 28th). Here it is:

    Chamber of Secrets update: this week we’re recording audio for the Moments

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