No Galleons Needed: Jam City President on the Key to the Success of “Hogwarts Mystery”

It’s hard to believe that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery has only been in our lives for just over a year! The popular Potter mobile game has been an incredible success, earning a $110 million revenue before its first birthday. Despite this monetary success, Jam City President Josh Yguado has revealed that the majority of players do not make in-app purchases.

So what keeps players coming back to Hogwarts Mystery, even when they’re tired of waiting for their energy to recharge?

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Yguado revealed that there were those who questioned Jam City’s decision to release a narrative-heavy game like Hogwarts Mystery as free-to-play. For free-to-play games, the main aim is to gain money from players through in-app purchases for things like extra lives and power-ups, often at crucial moments in a game.

When the game was first released there were a lot of questions about free-to-play and the narrative structure, how that would all come together and whether it would deliver on the expectations of Potter fans.

I would say, broadly, it has. After the game was first released, as people began to really get into the game and spend time with it, the reviews went from mixed to very, very good. The depth of the content and the quality of the writing has really made for an experience that fans have really, really gotten into.

For free-to-play game developers like Jam City, there is a delicate balance to consider. How do you serve both the players who are invested in the story and those who want to progress through the game quickly? And what is the key to keeping non-paying players engaged? This balance between narrative and monetization is something that is constantly being worked on.

If you’d like to go through [Hogwarts Mystery] quickly, you can pay to do that. [But] not everyone who plays our game pays — in fact, I’d say the majority don’t.

For Ygaudo, the compelling narrative of Hogwarts Mystery is what keep players (paying and non-paying) coming back. The chance to play as their own character through the seven years of Hogwarts appears to have won over the slow pace of progression through the game. Those who don’t want to make in-app purchases are invested in the story and don’t mind waiting for their energy to charge.

The way I see it is, there'[re] slightly different writing styles required for film, TV, books and games, and you have to tell a story in a particular way for a free-to-play narrative that goes on for a very long time. I personally think our writers have done an amazing job coming up with an unexpected, fun, exciting story in this game.

Ultimately, the goal of a free-to-play game is to monetize its audience, and there are players willing to part with their hard-earned Galleons to experience Hogwarts Mystery. In fact, 48% of the game’s $110 million revenue last year came from players in the United States, who seem the most eager to enhance their gameplay. However, Ygaudo maintains that monetization opportunities and complex narrative can coexist:

And I don’t think it conflicts with the business model — in the same way that Dickens wrote for magazines before he wrote for books, or television writers write for seasons, we’re writing for interactive episodes and chapters. That requires a different type of writing with a different cadence that I believe can be true to the world of Harry Potter.

So it seems as though Potter fans will do anything for a magical story, even waiting for their energy to recharge! Are you someone who is happy to wait, or do you prefer to purchase a few gems to keep moving throughout the game?