By Noelle Johansen
Aggie BluePrint contributor
July 2011 marked the end of a certain magical era to which young children felt entitled, but to which a currently collegiate generation is transcendentally connected. Said era was, of course, the legacy of Harry Potter. The characters’ final adventures reached the big screen and the ginger, the genius, and the Chosen One were finally old enough to graduate from Hogwarts. Spoiler alert, Lord Voldemort was finally vanquished. Fans sighed with collective and premature melancholy, and then relief, when a new announcement was made. Determined to keep the magic alive (and to continue eking every last dime out of the Potter franchise), author J.K. Rowling released Pottermore. The only problem: nobody understood what Pottermore actually was.
On June 23, 2011, Rowling released her cryptic Pottermore announcement via YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5DOKOt7ZF4). In it, she described the spirit of Harry Potter with lofty generalizations but revealed very little concrete information about Pottermore at all. She called it “an online reading experience unlike any other.” Rowling said it will be a place where “the digital generation will be able to enjoy a safe, unique reading experience built around the Harry Potter books. … Where fans of any age can share, participate in, and rediscover the stories.” The video announcement, which has over 2 million views on YouTube, drew excited, and confused, responses from leagues of Potter enthusiasts. The first YouTube search result for keyword “pottermore” is not Rowling’s announcement, but a reaction video featured by YouTube. Her announcement is the second result. The reaction video, from popular user Alex Day, is entitled “What The [expletive] Is Pottermore?”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YD1KSOmO9cg&feature=fvst) In it, Day expresses to 490,000 YouTube subscribers his enthusiasm at the continuation of the Harry Potter legend, but also his disappointment at the ambiguity in Rowling’s message. He quotes from Rowling’s description, “a unique, online experience,” and then points out that millions of online experiences are unique, including the experience between viewers and his own reaction video. He then dismisses Rowling’s description simply, “It doesn’t mean anything!”
In her announcement, Rowling said Pottermore would be open to the general public by October 2011, “but a few lucky fans can enter early and help shape the experience.” The few lucky fans were those who followed an online scavenger hunt of sorts, including Potter trivia, to solve and follow clues to the magical quill. The first day of the magical quill was July 31, Potter’s birthday. A capped number of users could register each of the seven days if they correctly solved questions and riddles leading to the magical quill. However, reaching the end of this trail of clues only granted access onto the metaphorical Hogwarts Express of Pottermore. Once registered, fans weren’t yet enrolled. They had to wait for the anticipated email that allowed their official entrance into Pottermore. For me, the process between early registration and Pottermore access took nearly two months.
Through Pottermore, readers can experience the Potter journey from the beginning, with new insight to character, setting and plot details from Rowling herself. Early in the process, users receive a list of supplies for first-years at Hogwarts. To fulfill this list, they visit digital Diagon Alley and Ollivander’s to receive a suitable wand based on a brief questionnaire. Upon arrival at Hogwarts, users take another 15- to 20-question quiz to determine the house to which they belong. Once sorted, readers can visit their common rooms and earn house points. Each step is interactive with user comments and uploads of art and writing from fans.
It’s been five months since Pottermore was planned to open to everyone, based on Rowling’s announcement. According to a statement given on the official Pottermore blog, “since we launched Pottermore, our one million Beta users have given us lots of amazing feedback, and we’ve been collecting their thoughts and comments. … After looking closely at all the information that we’ve gathered, we have decided to further extend the Beta period so we can improve Pottermore before giving more people access. This means the site will not be opening to new users in the immediate future, but please know that we will open registration as soon as we can.” The statement concluded by thanking future users for their patience. When Pottermore does eventually open, it will be the sole market for audio books and e-books of the series.
Here I could write all about my wand or my severe shock at being sorted into Slytherin (I have always identified with Ravenclaw, of course), but at Aggie Blueprint, we would rather hear from you. If you are part of the unique online experience that is Pottermore beta, or if you are particularly opinionated about Pottermore in any way, let us know. Maybe we’ll start a support group for those Slytherins or Hufflepuffs feeling displaced—Muggles Anonymous?
Update: According to a recent post (http://insider.pottermore.com/2012/03/waiting-for-pottermore.html) on the Pottermore blog, pottermore.com should be open to everyone early April 2012. For the most up to date information on Pottermore, check the Pottermore Insider blog at insider.pottermore.com.