Pottermore a ‘game changer’

Pottermore a ‘game changer’

The launch of the Pottermore website in October has been greeted as a “game changer” by the children’s publishing industry, with virtual worlds and social networking seen as a natural part of future brand development.

Mike Richards, head of marketing at Egmont Press, said: “What is significant is that virtual worlds have a proven business model unlike other areas of digital development.” He described the move as a “game changer” for children’s publishing, and added that the costs of creating a virtual world are no longer prohibitive.

The Pottermore.com website saw huge demand in the run-up to the beta site launch earlier this week. Lisa Edwards, publishing director at Scholastic, which has its own virtual world with Horrible Histories, said: “Once young people have seen a brand, they want to experience it from different angles and to engage with other people experiencing it at the same time. Publishers are starting to look at that.”

Digital consultant KZero said there are now about 500 virtual worlds but that figure is predicted to grow to nearly 900 in 2012, with revenues more than doubling to $9bn by 2013, up from $4bn this year. The bulk of accounts—some 561 million—belong to 10 to 15-year-olds, fuelling demand for social networking within virtual worlds.

Richards added: “I expect to see a lot of also-ran virtual worlds with the same model being used for different brands but with a different skin. Those that succeed will be the ones that remain true to the original books.”

However, Amanda Wood, m.d. of Templar, argues the real game changer has yet to emerge. “Everyone is struggling to find a way to incorporate different media into our core business, which is the creation of books, and to find a way to link the two. That’s the game changing moment, and I am not sure how many possibilities there are for doing so,” she warned. “Pottermore.com narrows the field even more—who will be able to fund that kind of website, and make it available for free?”