One of the most anticipated video games is one whose existence has yet to be acknowledged by its publisher, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It’s a big-budget Harry Potter game that will let players role-play as wizards and roam a vast, open-world re-creation of Hogwarts and its surrounding areas.
The long-rumored project is very real, according to two people currently working on it. The game is in development at a Warner Bros.-owned studio, Avalanche Software in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is scheduled for release late next year for platforms including the upcoming Sony Corp. PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Corp. Xbox Series X, said the people, who requested anonymity over fears they would be fired for speaking publicly about an unannounced game.
Within the team, though, some anxiety surrounds the work. The studio’s management has not addressed recent comments from the author J.K. Rowling that were widely viewed as transphobic, the people said. The situation made some members of the team uncomfortable and sparked private discussions among staff over the pandemic water cooler, the workplace communication app Slack.
Spokespeople for AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros. Interactive and Rowling declined to comment.
The result was that many transgender people felt demeaned, and the comments were denounced by fans and collaborators. Cast members from the Harry Potter series, including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, said they disagreed with Rowling’s stance, and Warner Bros. responded by touting its “inclusive culture.”
Many fans are attempting to reconcile their love of the fantasy series with its author’s beliefs, which they find repugnant. On Reddit, there’s a 6,000-member community dedicated to the yet-to-be-announced Harry Potter game. The usual exchange of rumors and wish lists that takes place there was derailed this month by debate over Rowling’s statements. The forum’s editors posted a declaration that they “firmly stand in disagreement with the opinions stated in those tweets” and that fans should avoid discussing them.
Warner Bros. had originally planned to announce the Harry Potter game during a news conference at the trade show E3 in June, according to people familiar with the plans. When E3 was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the publisher’s marketing roadmap shifted.
The new plan is to unveil the Batman game in August at a digital event called DC FanDome, and the Harry Potter game will be revealed later, a person with knowledge of the plans said. The person said those plans were made before Rowling’s comments.
Despite rebukes of the author and a possible sale of the game studio, development of the highly anticipated project remains on track.