Monday, October 10, 2011

Pottermore

Pottermore is a Sony sponsored website by J. K. Rowling that is supposed to let people experience the world of Harry Potter. As I’m one of the lucky few (1 million!!) with early admission to Pottermore, I’ve been on for about six weeks now and I’ve come to know the website pretty well. I know it’s only the Beta version so far, so a lot of things are probably going to change and hopefully they will, as there is way too little to see and do on the site as it is right now.

The Pottermore website is interactive, which basically means that you can move through the seventeen chapters of “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone”. It is called “a virtual reading experience”, but you don’t have to read the books to be on Pottermore. You won’t understand much of what is going on, though, if you haven’t read the books in advance and sometimes you can’t even move on without knowing certain details from the books.

On the website each chapter is divided into two or more interactive “moments” where you are able to get background information on characters, places and objects, in fact it says that the site is going to provide “over 18,000 words of additional content including background details and settings”. I guess most people don’t realise that 18,000 words are less than ten pages, so it isn’t very much, but I must admit that what I’ve read so far has been funny and enlightening.

On Pottermore you are also able to locate and collect different objects, books and galleons that will be added to your trunk or bank account. You’ll get your own bank account at Gringotts as well as a wand at Olivander’s and you’ll get sorted when you reach Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’m a Ravenclaw, of course. Always have been, always will be, no matter how or where I’m sorted. At Hogwarts you are supposed to be able to brew potions and participate in duels, too, but the duel page is down and more often than not the potion page freezes. Tough luck.

The visual side of Pottermore is really nice although the choice of keeping everything dark and shadowy is a bit strange and alienating. You don’t really see any of the characters, so you feel pretty much alone in this artificial universe. The website is 3 dimensional, making it possible to get deep into the layers of the “moments” but there is not enough to do as each “moment” only has two or three things to read and/or collect and that is way too little. I managed to get through the entire first book within an hour! The shopping at Diagon Alley and the sorting at Hogwarts were far the best “moments” because you could spent more time there than in any other “moments”. Still, I don’t feel that Pottermore really caters to the many HP fans and the lack of sound, be it music or background noises, is a big mistake. It just feels…empty.

While on Pottermore you compete with the other houses for the House Cup by gaining points. You gain points from brewing potions, winning duels and finding hidden objects, but as the duels page is down and the potion page freezes, I’m only able get points by finding objects. There are about 41 hidden in the first book and each one gets you 1 point, so how some of my fellow Ravenclaw students have got 8,000 points already, I don’t know. I still haven’t reached 40!

Pottermore is supposed to be a place where Harry Potter fans meet, play, chat and hang out. You can add friends to your account – if you know their Pottermore usernames, that is. You don’t choose your username yourself, so you have to live with whatever the website chooses for you. I have one that makes me sound like a very old, wicked reptile, but at least it isn’t as ridiculous as some of the other names, I’ve encountered. Anyway, it’s difficult to add friends as you’re not supposed to tell your username to anyone, so in the end you add friends randomly. At least the 14 friends I have on Pottermore are total strangers who have probably added me for the same reason that I have added them: to have someone to duel with whenever the duel page is back! I’ve never chatted with any of them for sure.

Well, all in all Pottermore could become an interesting website once we are out of the Beta period. I hope to see a lot of improvement to the site by the end of October 2011 when registration will open to everyone. Hopefully the next book “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” will then be accessible, too, as frankly, six weeks of “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone” is getting on my nerves! By the time that registration opens to everyone I’m sure that Pottermore is going to launch the part of the website that reveals its true purpose: to sell e-book and audiobook versions of the seven Harry Potter novels. We haven’t seen that in the Beta version, but don’t be fooled. Selling books is what Pottermore is all about. Happy buying!

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