Harry Potter augmented reality game is coming this year, from the makers of "Pokémon Go"

NOW: Harry Potter augmented reality game is coming this year, from the makers of “Pokémon Go“

(CBSNews) -- A new augmented reality game based on J.K. Rowling's famous Harry Potter fantasy series will hit app stores this year. "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite" is being developed by Niantic, the company behind the best-selling augmented reality mobile game "Pokémon Go." It will allow players to explore real-world surroundings while casting spells, solving mysteries and interacting with a variety of Rowling's beloved characters.

The official website of "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite" calls on those interested to "enlist," although a release date for the game has not been announced. "The Ministry is looking for witches and wizards willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer to save the wizarding world from the Calamity," a message on the game's website reads. "As a member of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force (a new task force formed in partnership between the Ministry of Magic and the International Confederation of Wizards) you will hone lightning fast wand reflexes, an ability to sniff out the faintest whiff of magical disorder from afar, and proficiency in advanced casting of multiple spells."

Developers gave our partners at CNET a sneak peek at their San Francisco headquarters last week. "Harry Potter: Wizard's Unite" is a location-based augmented reality game, meaning it can be downloaded on users' phones and the gameplay changes in relation to a user's location. The game itself will be free to download. Players create a wizarding avatar and choose a Hogwarts house and wand to play with. From there they go about exploring a game map where they interact with various elements of the Harry Potter universe including greenhouses, fortresses, witches and fantastic beasts.

"Uniting the wildly popular Harry Potter and 'Pokémon Go' franchises looks like a solid bet for a hit game," CNET's Clifford Colby writes. "I was unexpectedly pleased that the game felt both comfortably familiar and fresh."

Harry Potter is one of the most successful book franchises ever, with hundreds of millions of copies sold worldwide. The eight-film adaptation of the books has earned at least $7.7 billion at the box office.

Niantic is following a popular format for the Harry Potter game: "Pokémon Go" was a huge hit for the company following its July 2016 release. It's been downloaded more than 750 million times on mobile devices around the world.

Android users can preregister for "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite" through the Google Play store. Apple's iOS App Store hasn't yet made registration available.

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