• Thu, Jun 23 2011

J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore Announcement Is Kind of a Letdown

We were right! A few minutes ago, J.K. Rowling‘s big announcement hit the web: Her new website Pottermore will be “an online reading experience unlike any other” which gives younger fans a safe digital space to discuss the series and the world, with Rowling herself popping in to share tidbits that didn’t make it into the books.

…And that’s about it. Aside from some nifty graphics in the video, there were no other details about the ins and outs of the site. I figured at the least we’d get a tutorial for using the forums, writing groups, or whatever facets make Pottermore a unique community. Oh, we get the exclusive chance to download digital Potter ebooks. Woo?

What had me excited was the detective work we did leading up to today, not the announcement itself. Sorry to say, the news isn’t nearly as thrilling as some of the theories circulating on the Internet: An official Harry Potter encyclopedia, and yesterday’s new rumor of a treasure hunt.

The Guardian reported that an apparently secret memo accidentally released to another paper claimed that Pottermore would be an online scavenger hunt with clues leading fans to prizes in the real world. As I mentioned in last week’s Fan Service, many studios have engaged fans with these ARGs (Alternate Reality Games), with explosive results.

There’s a big chance that Rowling and co. have tricks like this up their collective sleeve; after all, she hinted that Pottermore is “the same story with crucial additions” — sounds a bit like a tie-in game to me. But if that’s the case, why keep up the subterfuge? Better to come out and verify the rumors.

The Leaky Cauldron suggests another detail of this online world, leaning more toward the role-playing side:

This better be true — I want a unique wand!

Another part of this that makes me grumpy is that Pottermore isn’t technically available to the fans yet. It’ll be open for business in October, but you can register for the chance to get an early look at all the hubbub. Weirdly, when I clicked “Submit your e-mail” on the site, the page simply refreshed. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stored my Gmail, since that kind of e-mail address seems to be automatically logged in no matter where you go on the Internet. Or the queue may not start til July 31 (Harry’s birthday, natch), as the message on that page indicates.

Rowling did leave us with the same vague clue: “Follow the owl.” The bird blinking at you in the photo is the screenshot I took from the site, and seems to be the only owl in question for now.

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