J.K. Rowling's big interactive Harry Potter site, Pottermore, won't launch officially until October, but the first few thousand beta wizards were invited to join the site in the past couple days. And the first screens are appearing online now.
The early reviews are pretty positive, stressing the immersive nature of the site. But the screenshots don't look all that great, to be honest. Basically Pottermore selects you into a House at Hogwarts, and then you follow the other members of your House, including your friends, via the main screen. And you follow Harry's whole journey through the books — so far, it's just The Philosopher's Stone — via interactive tableaux. You can click on items and learn their history, or get special bios of various characters. And there are scavenger hunts and thingies.
Entertainment Weekly writes:
The real fun comes with the community elements. Once you're sorted into a house-we got Ravenclaw because we're smart and boring-you'll be able to interact with your fellow housemates via a number of activities. Individuals can earn house points in the site-wide House Cup, and you can even engage in a wizard's duel using your customized wand and the spells you have learned. If potions are more your thing, you can buy all the bezoars and flobberworm mucus you need at Diagon Alley and whip up a batch or two in your cauldron, but don't overspend or else you'll find your Gringotts vault empty. All these elements represent the kind of useless but still desperately desired reward system that can turn horribly, wonderfully addictive. It's hard to tell at this point exactly how addictive when it's nobody else but us chickens in here, but Pottermore seems especially designed to destroy work productivity the world over.
Over at Huffington Post, Bryan Young writes:
To say that Pottermore is an immersive experience might be an understatement. The illustrations (at least for the first book) are better than what you saw in the movies. As soon as you get to Diagon Alley you're able to go shopping for your supplies (that you'll actually use) and then you must go buy your wand.
As I went through to choose my wand, I was asked a series of questions, written by Rowling herself, before a wand chose me.
I was assigned a Hawthorne wand with a unicorn core, 10 and 3/4's inches, and of a slightly springy flexibility. It was very cool and seemed very personalized, but you don't realize how personalized until the next screen where you're able to explore what all the different sorts of wand cores and woods mean. There's hundreds of possible combinations, thousands maybe, and somehow when I read about typical personality traits of wizards with my wand it seemed oddly accurate. Magic? Maybe.
Soon, you're brought to Hogwarts itself, learning bits of fascinating information all the way. (For instance, all the fractioned platforms of King's Cross station are in use for magical folk. Platform 7 1/2 is sort of like the Orient Express.)
And that's when the fun really starts. You're sorted into a house at Hogwarts through a series of questions. The questions don't seem to have obvious paths to any specific house but, again, the results seem oddly prescient. As I read the books, I was quite confident I'd be sorted into Ravenclaw and this only confirmed my suspicions.
From there, you're granted access to the common room of your house and the majority of social networking begins. You can link up to Facebook and find friends of your own inside Pottermore, assign them nicknames, comment on their activities, and give them gifts of the loot you've found throughout the book.
Honestly the whole thing sounds like hours of fun. For one day. And then something that you'll never look at again. But maybe that's just me being a grump.