The first Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Fan Festival had many expectations to live up to. Following the recent two successes of Go Fest 2018 and 2019, Niantic *had* to live up to the excitement that surrounded Go Fest. Was it worth traveling to Indianapolis for a festival of a game not even released for six months? How did it compare to previous Go Fest events?
Let’s compare Foundables to pocket monsters.
Entering the Park & Team Tents
As it was with Go Fest, any attendees did not have to be at the entrance noted on their ticket to start the event. Like previous Go Fests, there were no boundaries separating the event between the outside world. Civilians mingled with festival attendees due to the open layout of the event, riding park trolleys through crowds of people looking down at their phones.
Unlike Go Fest, there were not any class specific tents. Instead, there were giant tents welcoming all Magizoologists, Aurors, and Professors. Despite the lack of specific tents for teams, the tent areas that were available surpassed the team tents at Chicago’s Grant Park. Instead of just beanbags thrown onto the ground half-under a tent, WUFF had actual tables with comfy lounge chairs, decorated with apothecary-like items that you might actually find in Diagon Alley. With old bottles dangling from the ceiling, posters hanging about warning others of dangerous and evil Confoundables, and long hall tables, the Hogwarts atmosphere was definitely realized.
The Main Quest: During and After
The main quests that drove the dragon narrative in the park more closely resembled the tasks set in Go Fest 2018 rather than Go Fest 2019. The main quest line in WUFF 2019 stretched out over the length of the day, which was not entirely a bad thing. You obtained a sense of accomplishment with completing the tasks. On the other hand, for Go Fest 2019, the quest took a mere two hours to complete, which felt like they were just handing you Jirachi.
— Witches Unite (@HPwitchesunite) August 31, 2019
Of course, some people prefer a much quicker quest line, and that is solely on their own personal preference. Do you complete the tasks fast and spend the rest of the day catching Pokemon/disbanding Confoundables, or do you stretch out the main quest line over a majority length of the day? It’s a juggling issue – how do you satisfy people that prefer day long quests as well as people that prefer just catching everything that appears? Can there be more post-quest activities that keep people in the park?
Merchandise, Concessions, and Third Party Presence
This is where WUFF improved upon almost all former Go Fests. Merchandise was clearly located at the North Entrance of the park, and was marked as such on the maps located throughout the park. I bought two t-shirts, which cost near the same amount as they did at Go Fest (around $25 per). While there were not any cute plushies of Nifflers or a Golden Snitch as there were cute Pokémon plushies at Go Fest, the shirts themselves were of decent quality.
Relative to the size of the festival, there were more concessions at WUFF than Go Fest. Food trucks made their spot south of the Military Park area, and there were more concessions selling food (hamburgers, ice cream, hot dogs, etc.) in the middle of it all. Close by was also an AT&T tent that sold electronics (as well as signing people up for their service) to anyone that needed it. What appealed to me the most was the inclusion of an additional quest line for inputting your e-mail to AT&T. It wasn’t required, but it did net you free additional Spell Energy storage for just dining at one Inn and returning one Foundable. It was a clever use of partnership that many festival attendees went for.
First look at the official map for the #WizardsUnite Fan Festival!
— Wizards Unite Hub (@hpwuhub) August 26, 2019
My only moderate gripe: battery rental locations were not clearly marked on the map. If you were forgetful and did not have a friend with an additional battery bank, you were hard pressed to actually find locations that had them. I had an old college friend go without playing the last half of the event. I did not find the actual battery rental hubs until the last few hours, and there were not any BIG physical signs at the actual tents indicating that they were there. Go Fest 2019 had them at every team tent.
Short note: whoever was in charge of Hydration Stations for WUFF deserves a medal. They were far better at this event than at any of the previous festivals. Easy to use, and if I recall correctly, the Hydration Stations did not run out like they did in Go Fest 2018.
In addition, Niantic staff and any volunteers were incredibly friendly. They were on their customer service A-game.
Wizards Unite Fan Festival Final Thoughts
I was impressed with the quality of the event. The atmosphere (sound and music especially) was improved upon greatly, staff were incredibly helpful, and I greatly enjoyed the quest line compared to Go Fest 2019.
The merchandise was good, but Go Fest 2019 did have a MUCH bigger selection.
Decorations were just as good in WUFF as they were in Go Fest.
— Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (@HPWizardsUnite) September 1, 2019
It seemed like people were much more inclined to cosplay at WUFF than in Pokemon, which was happily noted. Nothing beats almost running over Professor Snape to get to your last Chinese Fireball.
The contests this time around were handled better than at Go Fest 2018/2019. Multiple people were included in each contest, taking place every 30 to 45 minutes. Some required you to actually draw the spells that they mentioned. Others required you to know what ingredients were used in brewing a specific Potion, like an actual Hogwarts class.
Again, I was greatly impressed with the execution of the event. I would recommend going to such an event in the future, even if you have to steal your parents’ Flying Ford Anglia.
For all past and future articles on the Wizards Unite Fan Festival, keep an eye on our Fan Festival tag. I was not the only writer at the event, and everyone is excited to share their own thoughts on the weekend!