Pottermore to Relaunch: New Site, New Content

Pottermore was launched to the public almost four years ago. Somehow, it simultaneously feels longer and shorter than that. I was lucky enough to become a Beta tester on Harry’s birthday, July 31st, 2011, a little over two weeks after the last Harry Potter film was released. A lot happened in that time. I went to my very first convention—LeakyCon in Orlando—and met the most incredible people, who have irrevocably changed my life for the better. Seeing the movie, it felt like the end of an era. I, along with so many others who saw the movie during LeakyCon, flooded that theater with our tears, knowing that Harry Potter had come to its conclusion. We, the fans, had lived through an incredibly magical time on this planet.

However, after attending a panel at LeakyCon all about Pottermore, I knew that I had found just the thing to fill the scar-shaped hole in my heart. I had seen J.K. Rowling’s announcement prior to that panel, but I had more details. I knew what Pottermore was going to be like. Except that Pottermore is nothing like it was when it was first released anymore. And we’re about to see Pottermore change even more drastically this time. Let’s rewatch the announcement video:

That video, though. More than anything else, it captures the magic of Harry Potter for me. The magical music, the story coming right out of the pages, the way that J.K. Rowling explains what Pottermore will be:

It’s called Pottermore. It’s the same story, with a few crucial additions. The most important one is you. Just as the experience of reading requires that the imaginations of the author and read work together to create the story, so Pottermore will be built, in part, by you, the reader.

Not anymore.

It’s been a while since users were no longer able to post comments or fan art to Pottermore. That’s the kind of interactivity that I think of when I hear J.K. Rowling say “the most important one is you”. However, over the intervening years, it became less and less about the potions brewed or spells cast or points earned, but more about Rowling’s new content. None of us can deny the truth in that. It’s not her fault. It’s not our fault. It’s not anyone’s fault (though maybe the clickbait-happy media is to blame somewhat, hyping up the audience every time JKR posted—of which I’m entirely to blame too).

And so, Pottermore is making changes to reflect what this website has become—a place where Rowling can post new factoids (rather than going to Twitter, as she so often does these days, where it is more likely to get lost in the shuffle). It is also making changes to reflect what our modern technology has become. Pottermore was originally released in 2011 to a fanbase of primarily desktop and laptop users. Now, that same audience uses smartphones and tablets most often to access online content. Pottermore 2.0 will have a mobile version, finally. Here is a sneak peak of what that will look like:

Last week, I wrote that I was concerned that we would be losing the artwork (which, for me, captured the magic of Harry Potter as much as or maybe more than Jo’s announcement video above). Thankfully, the artwork is not going away, as we can see from images one and three above, as well as this tweet confirming that from a little over a week ago:

That second image, though, troubles me. WHAT IS MAGGIE SMITH DOING HERE?! I’m sorry, but I do not want movie images anywhere near Pottermore. In my opinion, Pottermore should remain a book-only website.

But then, Pottermore is changing for another reason: the audience isn’t what it was originally expected to be. Pottermore was intended to bring Harry Potter to a younger, newer generation of readers. Instead, they realized that those who had already grown up with Harry were the ones who were frequenting Pottermore the most. So why not allow it to grow up too? Why not allow it to move on with Jo’s new projects? Why not allow it into the expanding wizarding world?

Since Rowling is writing the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay (not as a book first, but as a movie), I suppose it makes sense to include movie pictures, because Pottermore is expanding to include Newt Scamander and other new characters from the upcoming movies. But so help me, if they replace artwork with movie pictures, I won’t be happy. Honestly, I won’t be happy if any artwork from Pottermore 1.0 is missing from 2.0.

To recap, here are some 1.0 features that won’t be found in 2.0:

  • Usernames and passwords: You will not have to log in to use Pottermore anymore. All content will be open to the public without an account, indexable by search engines, and shareable on social media.
  • A linear book-approach with moments: The artwork and content will remain, but they will be presented not as a linear book companion, but more as a collection, an index, or (dare I say it) an encyclopedia.
  • Limited only to desktop or laptop computers: There will be a mobile version, formatted for smaller screens.
  • The Pottermore Certificate: Your personalized certificate will be gone after September 16th! Get yours now!
  • Interactive games and role-playing: Since accounts will be no more, so too will the dueling, potion-making, and points-earning come to an end. You will no longer be able to collect wizard cards and the like. I fully expect the Sorting Hat quiz and Ollivanders quiz to remain (and a Patronus quiz to join it), but all without accounts.

I should note that I’m pulling none of this from thin air. Susan Jurevics, the current Pottermore CEO, announced these things in an interview for TheBookseller.com. In that interview, among many interesting things, she said this:

There are a small few who will want to retain the role-playing, immersive environment but frankly there are a mass of niche Potter communities where they can do that.

As for me, as always, I’m holding out for a Harry Potter MMORPG, because, in my opinion, there aren’t nearly enough niche Potter entities where fans can experience an “immersive, role-playing environment”, contrary to what Susan thinks.

What do you think? Are you excited about J.K. Rowling’s ability to post more readily to Pottermore 2.0? Are you looking forward to exploring the new layout? Or are you sad that Pottermore 1.0—though, let’s be honest, it’s really Pottermore 1.5 at this point, because it’s gone through a redesign before—is coming to an end?