At its launch Pokemon Go (opens in new tab) set the world on fire. Servers crashed with the ungodly amount of people trying to get their mitts on Pokemon, a race started to find all the generation 1 critters, and comics flowed about the friendly rivalry of Team Instinct, Valor, and Mystic. If you’re one of the people who found yourself tracking down Pokemon at ungodly hours and saw others out glued to their screens, you’re not alone: even Niantic itself was “caught off guard” by Pokemon’s early success.
Archit Bhargava, Head of Product Marketing at Niantic, admitted at a Harry Potter: Wizards Unite event that the phenomenal success of Pokemon Go right from the beginning wasn’t entirely expected by the Niantic team. “I think when Pokemon Go launched we were caught off-guard, we were a pretty small team”, he said, mentioning “a lot of the server issues that we had initially in the last 4 and a half years, we’ve learned a lot, we’ve applied all those lessons”. All this comes as a reassurance that Niantic is better prepared for the launch of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a Harry Potter mobile game that uses the same geolocation AR technology as Pokemon Go.
Addressing concerns about how well the servers will fare when potential Wizards and Witches start playing, Bhargava addressed the disappointing 2017 Pokemon Go Fest, which suffered from catastrophic server issues. Niantic remembers it well. “Pokemon Go Fest in 2017 was not a smooth event,” Bhargava says, “but we didn’t turn away from it, we thought that real-world events are awesome because people come together, and it’s our job to give them a lifelong experience. So the team rallied, and we’ve had so many more events since.” With Harry Potter being one of the biggest pop culture global phenomenons in living memory, let’s hope that the Niantic team really are prepared for witches and wizards to flock to the mobile game, otherwise we’re going to be left feeling as empty-hearted as when we didn’t get our Hogwarts letter in the post. Which I’m still not over.