Posted by: Genny Colby | October 13, 2011

Pottermore…is it really more?

Thanks to a wonderful group of friends, whom I work with on the Michael Scott series I have talked about before on my blog, I was able to get into the Beta Testing Group for the new Pottermore.   Since I picked up the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I have been in love with this book series.  I have been to each movie, at least once in the theater, and usually on opening day.  We attended every midnight release for the books and spent the whole weekend just immersing ourselves in the world of Harry Potter.    As with many fans, once I finished that final book I had a sense of closure, we had seen Harry through his journey, and that was very satisfying.  But after so many years with exploring this magical world, I of course wanted to know more.  I wanted to know what happened next, not only to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, but what happened to their friends, their extended families, and the wizarding world in general.  What comes next when you know that the big bad you have feared for so long is finally vanquished?

Ms Rowling has indicated that while she feels the story she had to tell was complete (and I agree with her on this point) she had so much additional material-character back stories, history, other details-that never made it into the books.  Maybe one day she would put this all together to create a sort of encyclopedia of sorts for fans.  I loved this idea, hoped that one day she would be ready to return to this magical world and let us peek into her notes.

I was really excited to learn this summer that Ms Rowling was embarking on a new adventure with the magical world of Harry Potter, providing us an online reading experience to compliment the books (and the movies to a degree).  And here was going to be all of those little extra details, all that additional information that Ms Rowling has hinted she would share at some point, and a way for us all to enter the world of Harry Potter, Hogwarts, and that magical world.  Those who signed into the site would be able to not only explore Harry’s world, but get a wand, get sorted into one of the school houses, brew potions, play games, and interact with others.

I waited anxiously for my owl to arrive, letting me know it was time to get my supplies, board the Hogwarts Express, and make my way to school.  When it finally arrived…it was of course a weekend that we had a million and one things to do, but I managed to squeeze in some time to explore the new site.  Who needs sleep anyways?  At this time, only Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is available for exploration, with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets scheduled to go online in 2012, with the remaining books to follow, on an undisclosed time frame.

I love all the additional content this site has provided so far.  To learn more about Petunia and Vern’s relationship, how the final falling out with Lily and James occurred helped understand t who these people were, why they acted towards Harry as they did, and in general just flushed out these characters a little more.  The information about wand woods and cores was really interesting!  All this wand lore is alluded to at different points in the books, but to see it all in laid out was nice.  And if you ever wanted to know more about Professor McGonagall, well, you get your wish in this first book!

It was with excitement that I made my way through the story to get to my sorting.  Where would I end up?  Would I be where I always thought I would be sorted, or would the Sorting Hat sense something in me that I didn’t?  I am sure there are ways to manipulate your answers to get the house you want, but I decided to just try to answer the questions honestly, without thinking about the end result.  So where did I end up?

Right where I thought I would be!

So far everything was fun, exciting, a big adventure!  But once I finished exploring this first book…finding all the hidden chocolate frog cards, school books, potion ingredients, and other random items, I was left with a “what now?” feeling.  Yes, I can go brew potions for house points,  but you don’t get too many points; each potion takes time to brew and I can’t be sure I can be back at the computer in 90 minutes to finish it; there are a few glitches in the system that make your potion explode/melt your cauldron because it says you either put in ingredients in the wrong order, or missed a step, when you know you did it exactly right; and you spend a lot of your galleons replacing melted cauldrons and used potions ingredients that you can’t find in the book.  Dueling is not working yet, though I did find it fun to practice the spells.  Once that is up and running again, it should add level of inter activeness so far missing from the site.

But I am going to admit…after the initial excitement wore off, the site was not as big of a draw.  There are still obviously a lot of technical issues they need to work out.  The site is frequently down or not accessible due to high traffic volume.  Dueling is still not available, there are few ways to interact with any one else in your house, or in your friends list.  And to be honest, I am not sure what it really means to have people in your friends list, since there is no way to interact/send messages.  Yes, you can send gifts (items from your inventory) but that does not seem to serve a purpose yet.

Added to all this, the online store is not available and not schedule to open now until at least 2012.  And it has become obvious that those behind the scenes were not ready for this adventure.  They have not been able to handle the traffic site with only 1 million beta testers and have delayed the opening of the site world-wide.  They are also going to be staggering registrations over the next couple of months.

So in the end, I think the site has a lot of potential, I can’t wait for the remaining books to come online and explore the additional details provided by Ms Rowling and I am excited to see what all is included in the online store. I am very interested in obtaining the e-books at some point and this is the only place they will be available for download/sale.  But in terms of an interactive community, this site is still lacking.  Hopefully it is a work in progress, that there will be more ways for members to interact, more games to play, and more ways to earn house points.

Unfortunately, I think they have a wonderful idea, but were unprepared for the interest in the site, the volume of traffic to the site, the level of interaction is less than so many other social sites out there that it feels lacking in comparison.  But, you can not deny that the additional content is wonderful, rich, and adds so much to the world of Harry Potter.  So, while I may not be a very active house member of Ravenclaw, I will pop in from time to time to explore different sections of the book(s) and each time a new book comes online.

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