Finally, Harry Potter fans have something akin to an MMORPG. I have been waiting for this to happen for years. It is a work in progress, yes, but as it continues to grow, and more spaces are released, we may even have a fully-fledged Hogwarts one day.
What spaces are available now? And what exactly is PlayStation Home, anyway?
Let me start with the latter question. I came early to the Pottermore party (I was an early beta tester), but late to the PlayStation Home party. Some who have been using PlayStation Home for a while might ask why this title doesn’t read “PlayStation Home: Pottermore” instead. As I see it, the spaces that have been released so far are an extension of Pottermore, not an extension of PlayStation Home. I’ve even read a few complaints regarding privacy features that are in effect within the Pottermore spaces, but nowhere else within PlayStation Home. This, as far as I can reason, is because Pottermore.com has very extensive privacy features in place to protect younger fans who also want to be a part of Pottermore. For example, on Pottermore, your username is essentially chosen for you in that it must include names of magical objects, people or animals, and cannot include part of your real name. While your PlayStation username does show up within the Pottermore spaces, there are certain features that are disabled, I think, because of privacy concerns.
With that said, Pottermore at PlayStation Home can be explained in this way: Pottermore at PlayStation Home is a free (anyone with a PlayStation 3 can download and start exploring right now) platform where select Moments from Pottermore.com have been translated seamlessly into a beautiful 3D gaming experience. In addition to the ability to explore these Moments in full 3D with your own customized avatar, you can also play four interactive mini-games as well as attend Charms class to learn charms on your own.
These four exclusive (PS3-only) games are as follows:
- Wizard’s Duel. Located at the rear of the last carriage on the Hogwarts Express.
- Pottermore Quiz. Located within several cars on the Hogwarts Express.
- Pottermore Trading Cards. Located within several cars on the Hogwarts Express and several locations within Diagon Alley.
- Book Herding. Located in a back alley behind Madam Malkin’s in Diagon Alley.
I personally have not had an opportunity to play any of these games or try out charms at Charms class, so I may write another review about these mini-games and the Charms class at a later date. For now, you can see a preview of these mini-games in the video below.
But wait. What was that I read? Diagon Alley? Hogwarts Express?
Yes, you read correctly. Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express were the first two locations released on Pottermore at PlayStation Home. At Diagon Alley, the alley itself is explorable, but the shops are not. Some doors are ajar to show that you can walk up to them as if to enter, but instead, a pinkish screen (the unifying color of Pottermore) shows the various items that you can purchase from that shop. Yes, you can purchase items at Diagon Alley. However, get this: the items are digital, and you purchase them using Muggle money. You can buy a digital owl from Eyelop’s Owl Emporium. You can buy a digital cat or a digital toad from the Magical Menagerie. You can buy Hogwarts robes (for your avatar to wear) from Madam Malkin’s.
Some notable shops are inaccessible, but in the case of Gringott’s bank, another screen is shown instead with more information, very similar to the screen that is shown when new information is discovered on Pottermore.com. I appreciate the consistency, Sony. Yes, well done.
There are three carriages on Hogwarts Express. The first two carriages have compartments as we typically saw in earlier films, whereas the last carriage has merely booths, as we tend to see in the later films. Granted, Pottermore is meant to be based on the books and not the films, but I am using the films as a visual reference in this comparison. Both Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express are worth the exploration.
In the second and newest installment, Pottermore at PlayStation Home added the Charms class (mentioned above), the four Hogwarts House common rooms, and the Great Hall (including the antechamber where the House Point hourglasses are kept). No additional mini-games were added.
Let’s start with the Great Hall. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s truly breathtaking to walk through that space. It’s even cooler to watch over that space from Dumbledore’s chair, which you can walk up to and sit in. Then there’s the antechamber, which features several doors and a small staircase that I assume leads to the dungeons and Potions class, as well as a the grand staircase leading upwards. However, neither staircase and none of the doors are accessible. If you walk up to the grand staircase, you are given another Pottermore.com-like screen with more information about Hogwarts.
You can enter the common rooms by walking up to any of the four House Point hourglasses, but it can only be the house that you’re sorted into. I assume that this can only be done if your PlayStation account is linked to your Pottermore.com account, which I linked right away before I even entered Pottermore on PlayStation Home, because I think I was prompted to do so. If that is the case, once these two accounts are linked, and you enter the Great Hall for the first time, a cutscene will show your avatar donning the Sorting Hat and then announcing what you already knew from being sorted on Pottermore—the Hogwarts house that you call home. After viewing this scene, you can enter your house common room.
What strikes me the most about the Ravenclaw common room (Ravenclaw Pride!) is how exactly it looks like what you see in the background of the Ravenclaw common room page on Pottermore.com. I mean, exactly. The statue of Rowena Ravenclaw and the bookshelves behind her. The broomstick placed exactly in the same location on exactly the same furniture. It really is a 2D drawing brought to life on a 3D platform. Never have I been so happy to simply explore a 3D that I wish was real, to sit on the sofas, to watch the birds fly by the windows. I only hope that I have the opportunity to see the other houses in 3D someday! (Someone with a PS3 from another house invite me over please?)
That said, it doesn’t take much to please me. I play video games not for the challenging gameplay but for the aesthetic 3D exploration experience. That’s why Pottermore at PlayStation Home is really ideal for me. My only wish is that it was available for PC so that more people could enjoy it and play along, because not everyone can afford a PlayStation 3 to join in on the fun (though perhaps Sony hopes to sell more PS3s this way).
Some might also complain about the prices of digital items at the shops in Diagon Alley. I agree that the prices are steep, especially when you have nothing physical to show for your purchase. On the other hand, the entire Pottermore at PlayStation Home experience is free. Pottermore.com is entirely free. I think a few overpriced digital items (which are totally optional to the experience I might add) is a small price to pay to grow the brand. As long as Pottermore continues to grow online and on PlayStation Home, I am willing to pay a little bit to help make that happen.
Another (and by far the largest) digital item available for purchase is a House in Hogsmeade. However, I have planned a separate article for that, so stay tuned to read more about buying your own personal space in Hogsmeade.
Have you had the chance to experience Pottermore at PlayStation Home? What are your thoughts about it? Sound off in the comments!