This article was originally published as “El sustituto de Pottermore punto com tendrá una versión de pago” on the Spanish-speaking fan site HarryLatino.com.
What is ‘Wizarding World Gold’ and why we should have seen it coming years ago.
This month, Warner Brothers and Pottermore announced an alliance to create a new website (“Wizarding World Digital”) that will substitute Pottermore.com. Unfortunately, it seems that the new web page won’t be as free as the previous one.
The american fansite MuggleNet claims that it unofficially received marketing material for Wizarding World Digital. The material reveals the existence of a new paid membership called Wizarding World Gold, a service with “premium access to the best and brightest parts of the wizarding world – including, thanks to the merger of Warner Bros. and Pottermore, the seven published [Harry] Potter novels.”
MuggleNet also says the marketing material promises the following benefits:
“Once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Enter regular contests with incredible prizes, attend member’s only fan events at Wizarding World locations, and take part in incredible digital experiences. This, only for Gold members. Basically we are going to spoil you rotten.
Enjoy priority booking for the always in-demand Cursed Child.
Experience upcoming games, exclusive offers at real life Wizarding World locations, plus so much more.
Magical things are coming your way.”
The Gold level membership for Wizarding World Digital also includes a welcome kit with the following gifts:
“Your House-themed, personalized and fully interactive journal, a collectible ‘Gold Key Pin’, and an exclusive print of JK Rowling’s original sketch of Hogwarts.
Interact with your journal (it knows you better than you think) to unlock exclusive content and magical experiences.
Wear your ‘Gold Key Pin’ with pride and recognize fellow Wizarding World Gold members.”
As additional benefits, the marketing material also mentions exclusive access to “Original Video and Podcast Series” (right next to a picture of MinaLima, the graphic designers of all things related to Harry Potter movies, implying that both of them will be part of one or more of those series) and “Exclusive Merchandise and Special Offers” (specifically, “you’ll have access to exclusive limited-edition products and lots of very special offers through our online shop. Available only to Wizarding World Gold members.”)
As of now, there’s no word on the monthly or yearly cost of Wizarding World Gold.
Normally, this would be the part of the article where we would point that such and such things are not confirmed. The issue is that Wizarding World Gold was already confirmed by a Wizarding World Digital spokesperson in a statement for the fansite The Leaky Cauldron.
This is the official statement regarding the existence of the Gold service (emphasis is mine):
“Since we launched Pottermore in 2012, the digital landscape has evolved. We want to make it easier for fans to experience and travel through the Wizarding World. To this end, Wizarding World Digital are working on a broad range of new digital experiences all of which are at different stages of research and development. As announced last week, the new venture will make our content and experiences accessible to the broadest possible audience of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts fans.
We are working hard creating a range of products that we hope will surprise and delight fans. Whilst one of these explores a premium concept, the vast majority of the experiences in development are free. We are excited about the next phase of our digital journey and will officially release more information soon.”
In other words, MuggleNet caught WB and Pottermore red-handed while trying to put a paywall on WizardingWorld.com contents. We still don’t have a release date for Wizarding World Gold (or any similar “premium concept”, for that matter), but we can be sure that the two groups behind this project intend to create things that won’t be available for 100% of the Harry Potter fans.
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At first glance, Wizarding World Gold looks like a sudden betrayal from Pottermore or Warner Brothers. The problem is that the seed of the Gold idea was already growing on the minds of both Pottermore and WB years ago, but we ignored every single hint of it.
This are the four biggest signs that foretold Wizarding World Gold:
1) The Buzzfeed leak
On March 2018, Buzzfeed News published a tell-all article called “JK Rowling’s Pottermore Has Just Sacked Loads Of Its Editorial Staff” describing internal havoc within Pottermore. While the main focus of the news piece was a significant staff layoff, Buzzfeed walked the extra mile and interviewed anonymous employees (both retired and active ones) while trying to get a bigger picture on the situation.
In one of those comments, a former employee complained about Pottermore being “essentially a glorified merchandise shop with some cute articles that might appeal to hardcore fans but don’t have enough of a point of difference from the rest of the internet’s writing about Harry Potter to survive.” This means people inside Pottermore worried about both its monetization and its lack of distinctive content. And, for better or worse, Wizarding World Gold answers those concerns.
2) The first “AT&T buys Warner Brothers” press release
Right after AT&T announced in October 2016 that it would buy Time Warner (and, therefore, Warner Bros. and all of its intellectual property), the telecommunications company published a press release showing its real intentions regarding WB.
In the press release, AT&T promised that “the new company [that will be born the moment AT&T buys Time Warner] will deliver what customers want — enhanced access to premium content on all their devices, new choices for mobile and streaming video services and a stronger competitive alternative to cable TV companies.” It hurts me to admit it, but Wizarding World Gold delivers on that promise for Harry Potter, which is explicitly mentioned in the same press release as one of the most important movie franchises included in the buyout.
3) The AT&T “celebration” press release after buying Time Warner
As if that wasn’t enough, right after the Warner Brothers acquisition went through in June 2018, AT&T published another press release reassuring its desire to create services that sound a lot like Wizarding World Gold.
In this second press release, AT&T’s chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson states: “The content and creative talent at Warner Bros., HBO and Turner are first-rate. […] We’re going to bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers.” Right after that, the press release claims that “today, AT&T brings together […] robust premium content portfolio that combines leading movies and shows from Warner Bros., HBO and Turner” as one of its three main elements “required to transform” how content “is distributed, paid for, consumed and created.”
4) The DC version of Wizarding World Gold
That being said, we can’t put all of the blame for Wizarding World Gold on AT&T shoulders. After all, Warner Brothers created a similar service for DC Comics fans before the movie studios acquisition was authorized.
This service is called “DC Universe”, costs 8 dollars per month, and includes a wide range of benefits that are way too similar to the ones included in its Wizarding equivalent: The original content that inspired its movies (in this case, the comics), frequent contests with exclusive prizes, private access to a store with special products, and original multimedia content (such as the controversial live-action series Titans and the animated series Young Justice: Outsiders). As it is, Wizarding World Gold was made with the same cookie-cutter mold as DC Universe.
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We can’t pretend that the rise of Wizarding World Gold is unexpected, nor we can dare to predict that there won’t be fans interested in paying real money for exclusive stuff. However, we can choose to keep a cool head. After all, we don’t even know what will Wizarding World Gold offer as paid content. Hell, we don’t even know what will Wizarding World Digital offer as free content (other than the Wizarding Passport and some lousy Cursed Child sweepstakes). At the end of the day, we already have the guarantee that a big part of the Wizarding World Digital content will be free, including all the Wizarding World Gold stuff that will be inevitably uploaded “for free” to The Pirate Bay and YouTube.
Because of that, it would be advisable to keep calm until we get an official confirmation of both the cost and the content of this new subscription service… and only once we learn it all, we can firmly decide if we are up to pay for it. As a result of this, if the final version of Wizarding World Gold doesn’t convince the fans, its earnings will reflect it, and both WB and Pottermore will see that as a sign to change course.