Niantic has hosted the very first Harry Potter Wizards Unite Fan Festival over Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. Like their previous Pokémon Go Fests, this HPWU Fan Festival was a place for all Harry Potter fans and HPWU players to gather, play, and just have some fun.
Unlike the very first Pokémon Go Fest, the HPWU Fan Festival went pretty smoothly, aside from the short thunderstorm that hit the area briefly on Saturday morning, delaying the Early Access attendee start time by around an hour. Niantic did send out a notification to all HPWU players in the area about the thunderstorms, and told everyone to stay indoors. They said that since the start time was going to be delayed, the end time of the event would be extended to make up for it.
However, it's a bit disappointing that those attendees who paid for Early Access (start time of 9 AM instead of 11 AM for general) got their time cut short, so hopefully Niantic does something to compensate for those who got their early access time cut short (thanks nature!).
The Venue: White River State Park
Since this is my first time in Indiana, I was pretty impressed with White River State Park. It's a beautiful and spacious park in the middle of the downtown Indianapolis area, with multiple city attractions surrounding it, such as the Indiana State Museum with IMAX Theater, the Indiana Convention Center (with Indiana Comic Con happening this same weekend), Victory Field, the Indiana Zoo, and the Lucas Oil Stadium.
For the Fan Festival, the park was split up into four major sectors: Magical Games and Sports, Care of Magical Creatures, Hogwarts School, and Dark Arts. When you were in these designated areas, you would find a ton of spawns for that particular Foundable Family, along with a sprinkle of the other families, such as Magizoology in Care of Magical Creatures.
The four dragons in the event (Common Welsh Green, Antipodeon Opaleye, Chinese Fireball, and Peruvian Vipertooth were also spawning in specific sectors. This means you would find one specific type of dragon in each area, rather than all over the place. It encouraged you to walk more and explore the park to get everything, and I'm glad it did. The park is just stunning, and there are some nice sights to see.
To keep people satisfied, there were plenty of tents and sitting space in each area. Plus, there were recharging stations for your phone, charging battery rentals, hydration stations, and generic food stands as well as food trucks.
Every section was properly labeled with the landmark flag and signs. However, as a newbie and tourist to the area, it took me a while before I began to get my bearings of the place. I managed to take in all of the sights of nature while enjoying my HPWU fix.
The Assignments and Tasks
To keep attendees busy and have a purpose of being at the event, there was a special set of assignments for everyone who had a ticket to the festival. Like other special events, it was split up into four different parts, but the second part had a particularly long laundry list of things to do, making it the biggest hurdle in completing the event.
The first part was very easy. It had the usual, Special Assignment kind of tasks like "Dine at an inn 5 times," "Pick up 5 Chinese Fireball Eggs," "Return 7 Foundables of Any Family," etc.
But then you hit the second set of tasks, which was the longest, and (to me) the hardest. You had a section for each Hogwarts house (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff), and each one had three tasks to do, and then another task to complete the other three tasks for each house. This equates to 15 tasks, and these involved getting a specific number of certain Foundable families, walking distance, performing "Great" spell casts, and more.
This set was the most involved, and required hitting up each sector of the park to complete. It didn't matter which house you chose, as you had to do all of them to move on to the next set of tasks. This was definitely challenging, and took up a good chunk of the day.
The third set of tasks was a bit easier, but still involved walking and exploration. Plus, once you reached this set, you gain access to the last two dragons (Chinese Fireball and Peruvian Vipertooth), because it seems that before that, you will only find Common Welsh Green and Antipodeon Opaleye dragons. This set involved fighting the Chinese Fireball and Peruvian Vipertooth Foundables (as Oddities), and getting some more dragon eggs.
Finally, to finish off the challenges, the fourth set of tasks was super easy. All you had to do was take a self-portrait for your Ministry ID, take a photo of any Foundable, and add a new friend.
The rewards for the Fan Festival assignment was deeply rewarding for those who were able to make it. We got tons of experience, 30 Restricted Books, 300 gold, silver keys, Family XP, stickers, and other freebies. In the end, I felt that the rewards for attending and completing the event tasks was well worth it.
While the dragons definitely were the big highlight of attending the Fan Festival, there was plenty of other reason to go as well. For one, I've never seen such an insane number of Severe and Emergency level threats pop up at once.
No matter where you turn, you were going to find an Orange or Red level Trace every few minutes. And these were rare Foundables that I usually never see, and I've been playing the game since it launched (I'm level 29 right now).
And it definitely seemed easier to catch these Severe and Emergency level Foundables. I didn't have a lot of Exstimulo and Dawdle Potions, so I didn't use them too much. I was still able to get many hard-to-find Foundables like Albus Dumbledore, Hermione Granger, Firenze, Percival Graves, Newt Scamander, Harry Potter, Tom Riddle, and more, some of them even with just one cast! I was honestly amazed at how easy it was to get them. And if I didn't, I wasn't bothered too much, as I would just find another one in a matter of minutes if I hung around that particular area.
There were also the Dragon Eggs that were all over and able to be picked up like a standard ingredient item. But these free dragon eggs also counted towards your Oddities family rank, and contributed to the "Global Challenge." Even though I already got the necessary amount of egg fragments quickly, I still enjoyed picking them up since they're pretty much free and don't take up inventory space like standard ingredients (and they increase your Oddities rank).
Niantic and Harry Potter Wizards Unite
While HPWU has only been out several months, I'm impressed by all of the work that Niantic has put into the game so far and continues to improve it.
Honestly, I was not expecting too much from the HPWU Fan Festival at first, because it seems that the player base isn't as big as Pokémon Go, and I was afraid of things like server crashes like with the first Pokémon Go Fest. But there was none of that today, and it was a very pleasant experience.
Niantic did a great job picking this park as the location to host it. It was spacious with plenty of room, and it didn't feel like a huge crowd, even though there were thousands attending. Everyone was very friendly and seemed happy to be there, and there were no big issues with the game itself, other than me forgetting to download assets beforehand and taking forever to load the Hogwarts House Portrait reward Foundables. The Niantic staff were also very helpful with answering any questions and even helping take photos against cool props and backdrops.
Future improvements and things I would like to see
For a first time event, I think Niantic did very well with the HPWU Fan Festival. The props set up around the park were amazing and full of incredible detail, and everyone was just having a good time.
I think the only thing that would have improved the overall experience was the addition of more themed food and drink. The food that was offered was pretty standard "muggle" food, like burgers, chicken tenders, pizza, and assorted food trucks. Instead, they should have had things like fish and chips, shepherd's pie, and other food items that you would find in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. I would have also loved to see butterbeer offered, but I'm honestly not sure if Universal Studios has an exclusive for that in their parks.
The bottom line
Overall, as a first-time attendee to an event like this, I was very impressed. The park was beautiful, spacious, and allowed me to see sights I don't normally, which I truly appreciate. The other fans and attendees were friendly, and it was just a great time for everyone who was there. The props were my favorite part, as no detail was skipped over, and I loved finding all of the real-life dragon eggs that were scattered everywhere. The event tasks were challenging but a ton of fun to complete, and it was enough to keep us busy for pretty much the entire day, plus the rewards were great and well worth it.
There were no real complications or issues with the event (other than the Saturday morning thunderstorm, but Niantic doesn't control the weather), which surprised me. If I had the opportunity again, I would attend the next HPWU Fan Festival.