Since its launch, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery has been widely criticized for the way it implements its microtransactions. Not content with selling cosmetic items to fans willing to spend some extra cash, the game is built entirely around a restrictive energy system that attempts to bore or frustrate players into purchasing additional energy with gems, which are typically bought with real world cash. However, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery‘s microtransactions seem even more predatory now than they were at launch, relying on scare tactics to get players to drop money on the game.
Recently, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery has started running limited-time side quests that give players a certain amount of time to complete a series of objectives in exchange for rewards. Even if players make sure to play the game as much as possible, they can sometimes cut it close when it comes to actually completing these events, with the recent Halloween Feast side quest being a good example of this. The limited-time Halloween Feast side quest gave players about four days to complete all its objectives, and it had multiple instances of forcing players to wait hours to start the next quest or making players complete especially long tasks.
A glance at the Hogwarts Mystery subreddit confirms that there were a number of players who simply ran out of time when it came to completing the Halloween Feast side quest, therefore missing out on exclusive cosmetic items and story resolution. Since the side quest involves the werewolf Fenrir Greyback, missing out on some story developments may be especially disappointing to Harry Potter book fans, and that fear of missing out could very well have convinced some of them to buy some of the game’s microtransactions to speed things up.
Hogwarts Mystery has employed fear tactics to sell in-game content in other ways as well. For example, the most recent House Pride event saw players compete in teams of 10 against three other factions to see who could collect the most house points. The winning team won a unique spider pet, whereas the losing teams earned some energy and coins. We’ve already discussed why the House Pride event was broken, but for the uninitiated, the event seemed to greatly favor teams made up of those still in the early stages of the game (where house points are given out more frequently and in larger quantities during story events), and it also had a clear pay-to-win element. After all, players could simply buy more energy and just keep completing classes for house points if they had the cash to do so, whereas others would have to sit and wait for their energy meters to recharge.
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery players missed out on getting the spider. However, Jam City has now added another way to get it, and that’s by spending $17 in exchange for the pet, some gems, and some coins. The deal includes 130 gems and 1500 coins, which typically go for $5 each, so players would be paying $7 for a pet spider whose only real purpose is to get one extra free energy bit. At the time of this writing, the spider can’t be purchased separately, only as part of the special bundle that includes the gems and coins, so players only interested in the pet will have to pay $17 for the $7 spider.
To make this worse, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery players who open the app today will be greeted by a message that again uses scare tactics to try to get them to purchase the bundle. It emphasizes that the spider pet is a “limited time” offer only available during the Halloween season, and that this is the “last opportunity” to adopt it.
A live service style game like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is expected to have special events with limited-time items, but the manner in which Hogwarts Mystery has added this content is predatory. It uses scare tactics to try to get people to purchase its microtransactions, dangling the spider pet in peoples’ faces as a prize, making it pay-to-win to get the spider, and then turning around and selling the spider to those who didn’t win the House Pride event for $17. When one remembers that Hogwarts Mystery started out by strangling a child with a Devil’s Snare plant and asking players to spend money to save them, these latest developments are not surprising, but they’re still disappointing.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is out now for iOS and Android mobile devices.