In video games, microtransactions aren’t always a bad thing. Truth be told, they are a great source of revenue for independent game designers and the driving force behind the rise of freemium models. On the other hand, the suits at the helm of the major corporations will undoubtedly exploit them to the fullest extent possible.
And let’s not kid ourselves, microtransactions have been around for a long time, and they’re not just limited to mobile games; they’re also found in AAA games. Microtransactions will remain as long as there are people willing to continue feeding the trend despite the damage it is causing to the industry as a whole and despite the criticism leveled at major companies for exploiting them.
In any case,Harry Potter and the Crime at Hogwartsincreases the bar for how much can be charged for nothing and takes the trend of exploitative microtransactions much further down the rabbit hole.
What Types Of Microtransactions Are Present In The Game?
Microtransactions are essentially in-game resources, as is the case with many other mobile games. These are the equivalent of gems, gold coins, and energy found in countless other mobile games.
Now, monetary gold are the easiest to deal with in this trio. You can earn a fair amount of them just by playing the game, and they’re only needed for purely aesthetic purposes. The other two, however, present a challenge.
Invaluable stones and vitality are the two main players responsible for the game’s blatant commercialism. So, here’s the deal: in order to advance, you’ll need energy. A point of energy is replenished every four minutes, so over time, your energy bar will fill up on its own. Gems, which can be used to purchase energy, must first be purchased with real money.
Why Are They So Bad?
Keeping all of this in mind, you can restore about half of your energy in an hour. While at first glance this may not seem too bad, the ugly truth soon becomes apparent when you realize that you need more than two full energy bars to advance through any encounter longer than a few seconds. Pay up if you don’t want to be stuck at a certain level for hours.
True, energy costs can’t be that high, right? According to our calculations, it would cost about $50 to play the game for an hour without any time limits. Stop and think about that for a minute pay rate of $50/hr.
It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of in-game content is paid for. Though it can be played without spending any money, doing so turns the game into a tedious chore. There is a finite amount of time in each encounter, and the amount of energy that can be passively generated over time is also finite.
For this reason, I was forced to place reminders in your calendars to sound every hour or so in order to make progress in a fight. And if I don’t start using that energy up before it reaches its limit, well, you can guess what happens then. If I don’t have time to fully recharge my passive energy reserves before the encounter timer runs out, I’ll have to start over.
Don’t think for a second that chance encounters aren’t planned that way. Wait until you see the developers’ most ingenious method of intentional exploitation.
Holding Your Character Hostage
You’ve probably already heard about the major controversy that was sparked by a single encounter.
In other words, the game’s early going is relatively easy, and you have plenty of stamina and health until you run into the Devil’s Snare, an encounter whose sole purpose is to drain your reserves. This tentacled plant was featured prominently in the first Harry Potter book and film, and you probably remember it.
Well, your character walks into a room full of the icky thing, starting a very long encounter that will eventually lead to the very first time in the game where you are hit with a paywall, a paywall deliberately placed in the middle of a tense encounter. At the halfway point, you’ll have to decide whether to spend gems to restore your character’s energy or continue playing through the strenuous middle section.
As many others have said before me, I don’t think I need to elaborate on how dishonorable this strategy is. Watch the video down below to hear YongYea expand on his experience.
How Are They Getting Away With This?
Now you’re probably wondering how on earth a game like this could have received 4.5 and 4.4 star ratings on the App Store and the Play Store.
Okay, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re discussing Harry Potter. Many people all over the world have become devoted readers of the Harry Potter books, and these people are willing to spend a lot of money on anything that bears the series’ name.
There’s also the fact that many consumers are unaware of how detrimental microtransactions are to the market as a whole or how dishonest the practice itself is. It is lost on the populace that they are essentially purchasing nothing more than empty rhetoric.
Similarly to what you might find inUnsolved Mysteries at Hogwartsvalue is no more than $10 at most. Despite this, there are those who are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on free-to-play mobile games that feature similar microtransactions for virtual goods.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Review
Mystery at Hogwartsdate of its release (May 25)thdate (April 2018) on iOS and Android. It was made by Jam City, a company with experience making successful mobile games, and is the first Harry Potter game of its kind.
With such a recognizable name attached, you’d think this indie game would make an effort to honor the Harry Potter canon. The opposite is true. This unremarkable blunder of a “game” has the most potential of any product I’ve seen to tarnish the company’s reputation, and that’s saying a lotA Case of the Cursed Offspringis a thing, which is to say quite a bit.
Although the inclusion of microtransactions is ultimately responsible for the game’s failure, the experience would still be lacking if they were removed.
To get you to spend as much money as possible, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery poses as a free-to-play role-playing game, but it’s really just a trap that takes advantage of your love for the Harry Potter series and your inner child. The offensive collection of rampant microtransactions is thinly masked by Wizarding World–inspired window dressing and familiar music.
All I wanted as a lifelong Harry Potter fan was a simple game where I could create a character and go to Hogwarts (I was in elementary school when the books came out, and I was exactly 11 years old, the same age as Harry, when the first movie came out). Hogwarts Mystery seemed determined to ruin my experience from the moment I was sorted into a house after picking out a wand at Ollivanders in Diagon Alley and becoming a witch or wizard.
Joining a house was, to put it mildly, a letdown.
For lack of a better word, joining a house was a letdown. About a billion quizzes (including an official one on Pottermore) try to guess which Hogwarts house a user would be sorted into based on their answers. We finally have an official Harry Potter roleplaying game where you can create your own character, and all it does is let you pick which house you want to be in, with no actual sorting? I felt like I had been denied a necessary stepping stone on the path to becoming a wizard.
From there on out, the story progresses roughly as anticipated. You will be whisked away to your first lesson, where you will learn to cast spells by tapping on targets and swiping the screen. Hogwarts Mystery is more accurately described as a point-and-click adventure game with a lot of heavy story elements than anything action-packed, and the gameplay is limited to essentially just that.
In the original (and surprisingly engaging) Harry Potter story, you’ll get to a few branching moments where you can make some largely inconsequential choices that will affect your character and his one-dimensional plot device sidekick, Rowan.
The story is a refreshing change of pace from the tired ‘chosen one’ trope.
In addition to enrolling at Hogwarts, you’ll have conversations that flesh out your character’s history and prepare them for life at the school. There’s a whole subplot involving your expelled sibling who came before you and embarrassed your house of choice, which ups the ante on the family drama. It’s a nice departure from the usual “chosen one” storylines that populate Harry Potter novels. The story’s originality and the limited freedoms you’re given make it stand out from the rest of your time at Hogwarts. The fact that you and your character are now part of the Wizarding World and can watch them go to school and visit famous landmarks while chatting with familiar faces almost makes up for the lackluster gameplay. Almost.
Additionally, as you progress through Hogwarts, you’ll gain attributes that allow you to shape your witch’s or wizard’s growth through the availability of alternate dialogue options that reflect your changing character. In order to access the “Courageous” options in otherwise unavoidable scenes and dialogue, you may need to increase your Courage by completing lessons and tasks. As a result, your persona may become more outgoing or honest, which could earn more House Points and boost your chances of claiming victory in the annual House Cup competition. However, because none of that contributes significantly to the narrative, it often comes off as unnecessary filler.
The first thirty minutes set the stage for what could have been a charming story, but after that you’re hammered with tasks that can only be completed by spending the two currencies, energy and crystals, and of course you’ll never have enough to do them when you want to because they replenish in real-time at an agonizingly slow rate. If your character is being choked, for example, you can either pay real money for gems or wait a few hours to play again after your free energy has been replenished. There’s nothing else to do in your spare time, and while I’m used to in-app purchases in games, I can’t remember the last time I played one that actively blocked me from progressing in any way unless I either paid money frequently or quit playing. I became increasingly disinclined to reopen the app after being told to wait several hours.
It’s the worst example of free-to-play game design in recent memory.
However, if the eight-hour deadline in real time is not met, the task must be redone from the beginning. You’re supposed to get used to checking your phone and opening the app frequently (gotta get those ad impressions!) to see if you have enough juice to make it back, but it’s incredibly annoying that there’s nothing else to do while you wait. It’s the worst representation of cliched, exploitative design in a free-to-play mobile game that I can recall seeing.
To make matters even more confusing, the price for gems is in flux.
The bare minimum amount of gems I would need to buy to complete most tasks that I hit a paywall for could be as low as $0.99 for 25 gems, 20 of which could be traded in for 10 energy crystals, based on my personal experience. Prices increase from there, with 130 gems costing $4.99 and 30 crystals costing 55 gems, respectively. A paywall could appear at any time, adding up to a significant sum.
Gems (which can be used to purchase additional energy) have fluctuating prices, adding further complexity. The pricing structure is inconsistent, with some users in some regions receiving significantly lower rates than others. Warner Bros. seems to be experimenting with different price points to see which ones are most successful, but doing so now, when there has been such a huge fan backlash against the system, seems like a bad idea.
Although it’s clear that Hogwarts Mystery is meant to be played in short bursts, those bursts always seem to end at the most inconvenient times, such as when you’re in the middle of a particularly exciting story moment or in the middle of learning a spell, and you’ll have to start over if you didn’t have enough energy to finish the task the first time around.
I can’t help but think that Jam City, the game’s developer, would have done us a favor by providing us with a different way to advance in the game. If you can’t afford real money, you should at least be able to store a lot of crystals and build up a large amount of energy, or have a straightforward way to acquire gems (the microtransaction currency). Alternatively, you could just sell us the whole thing outright.
The gameplay itself is the most exciting part, and it has finally arrived. That is, the absence of it.
There are three main tasks you’ll be tasked with completing throughout the game:
- Targeting items with blue borders
- Create visuals by drawing easy shapes on the screen.
- Having a game of rock-paper-scissors
- Conversational role-playing
Yes. So long. The interactions will boil down to tapping the screen and drawing patterns, whether you’re in a classroom or a battleground. There is no need for dexterity, reflexes, or success.
Rock-paper-scissors is a classic game that can come up occasionally in duels between students. You can choose to be either aggressive (the default), defensive (the middle ground), or sneaky (?) That’s exciting, right? No.
And last but not least, there are interactive conversations where you can choose from three different options. One is incorrect, one is correct, and one is “sort of” correct. It’s a lot like the minigame where you can’t lose if you have at least two working brain cells.
The RPG Elements
Consider the fact that the game is categorized as a role-playing game. The game does feature what could be considered statistics and dialogue, but these elements ultimately serve no purpose.
The attributes have no effect other than to provide you with a few extra options in dialogue as you level them up in response to randomly generated prompts. You’re not going to miss out on any of the hidden explanations because your bravery, empathy, and intelligence are all pretty constant.
Suppose, however, that you fail to catch even one. Is there a long-term effect? For good reason, no. Attribute-related dialogue options may occasionally provide a slight advantage, but ultimately, they are just as meaningless as the rest of the options you have. There are literally no viable options.. There are no alternate paths in the story, and the game cannot be significantly changed.
Additionally, there was no evaluation of our interests or aptitudes to help with grouping. How does the Sorting Hat decide our house in the Harry Potter series? There are countless fan-made ones online, and there’s even an official one on Pottermore.Speculations on the Hogwarts Scandal? We just we’ll choose it ourselves
And why, in the end, am I so dissatisfied with this game?
Neither the game’s microtransactions nor the fact that it appears to consist of scenes acted out by Sims in cosplay are the problem. Potential is being squandered.
It’s the Harry Potter series, after all, a name that can be recognized all over the world. And yet, after all these years, there has been hardly a single game that deserves the label “good.” The movie-based video games were alright until theThe Phoenix OrderThe Lego games are competent platformers, but they didn’t advance the series very far.
For a long time, fans have wanted an role-playing game that would allow them to relive the series’ (and our) early glory days. If not on purpose,Mystery at Hogwartsmakes a show of being that kind of game, but is actually just another corporate cash-in on a successful IP.
What else can I say? It’s disappointing that WB isn’t putting their resources into making a game worthy of the series. When you can give a mobile developer a lot less money and make $100 from in-game currency, it’s hard to justify spending $50 million on developing a real game and charging a flat $60 for it.
As for Hogwarts Enigmaitself, it isn’t intended to be fun to play. The purpose of this is purely financial. Its intended purpose was clearly met, but as a game it falls woefully short, hence the final grade.