Before its brilliant launch, we had talked about Pottermore, the new brick of the Harry Potter universe, right here. Presented in the biggest newspapers as the site that will bring together the whole community of the little bespectacled sorcerer’s fans, which until now was spread out onto thousands of informal sites, Pottermore launches under the aegis of J.K. Rowlings, the creator of the fictional universe.
After a digital marketing action open onto the whole world, Pottermore opened its doors, as a preview, for only one million diligent fans who earned their virtual place in the site’s community. For 7 days, the Internet users answered riddles on the site to find “the magic feather”: the virtual object that opened their access to the internet portal.
The search for the “magic feather”
The riddles remain anchored in the universe of the book. An element that once again emphasizes the target of this operation: Harry Potter initiates. Here is, for example, the first question: “How many types of owls are on the sign of “The Owl Kingdom” shop? Multiply this number by 49 to get the answer…”. If you can answer this question (without cheating with a search engine) you are indeed part of the little sorcerer’s community! We can therefore assume that the goal of this operation is to identify and value the most active members of this global community.
The quest is now over! You can retrace the winding path of the Internet users who won “Harry Potter’s magic feather” on the IDBOX blog. The participants who correctly answered the riddles received a welcome email, bringing this part of the virtual game to an end. The organizers promised the winners that their accounts would be activated between August 15th and September 30th.
This hunt for the magic feather seems to continue the jovial and enigmatic spirit of the site’s opening, when JK Rowling had challenged the internet users to find the ten letters of her new project’s name through a game of clues published on her Twitter thread. The letters matched 10 geographic coordinates from the Harry Potter universe. Once integrated into the site Secret Street View, they gave the name of her new website.
Rowling highlighted, in one of her important declarations to members of her community: “It’s the same story with some essential add-ons. The most important element is you. In the same way that reading implies a collaboration between the imagination of the author and the reader, Pottermore is partially built by you, the reader.”
Pottermore and the PotterWar
This focus on the internet user’s role is a beneficial attitude change on behalf of the owners of the Harry Potter brand! Deep Media reminds us of the PotterWar, ten years ago, when the fan community was threatened by Warner Bros… The studio wanted to protect the integrity of its brand, but the readers were outraged by the threats of lawsuits from using the “Harry Potter” brand on their websites, which were specifically created to prolong and cover the story with praise.
For his book Convergence Culture,Henry Jenkins had interviewed the leader of this group of angry fans. Heather Lawyer, only 16 years old back then, answered that Warner Bros. had underestimated the fact that all these sites were interconnected. Before the studio had time to change its mind, the British public opinion was already offended by these threats of legal action against children passionate about Harry Potter. Today, more and more producers understand that UGC is not a threat to their brand or for the content that they’re commercializing, but a strong declaration of commitment towards the content. The actions surrounding Pottermore today confirm the place of the community and promises interactivity with the creation of a “gratification” system for the most active fans.
Jeff Gomez, the co-founder of Starlight Runner was describing in Forbes, the importance of Pottermore’s community aspect:
It’s not only there to sell books, but to feed and finally to develop Harry Potter’s strength. It’s a historic moment!
He highlights the fact that the site’s producers created a “participative storytelling system”. The act of formalizing and assembling the fan base in a single place allows them to offer services adapted to a community hungry for interaction and participation.
The Harry Potter fan community has showed a strong implication for more than a decade, with innumerable UGC and local events organized around the books. The Pottermore Twitter and Facebook accounts already have about 400.000 fans. Few sites would have succeeded in creating so much interest around a website.
Speculators around the Pottermore project go further and dream of a transmedia project: an MMO game that would continue into the real world. The UK Times said that “this new website is a sophisticated online game unveiling clues that lead to prizes hidden in the real world. The magic wands will be found in the UK, in the US and potentially in other countries.”