For any New Braunfelser who’s ever wanted to live in the magical world of Harry Potter, a new iPhone game is now offering that chance, while also connecting members of communities.

Niantic — the same company that created the very popular social interactive game “Pokemon Go” in 2016 — has released a similar game that takes place in the wizarding world of Harry Potter called “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.” Players are encouraged to walk from checkpoints called “inns” or “greenhouses” to collect potion ingredients, while battling to return magic-protected “foundables” to Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic. 

The game was released just over a week ago.

While New Braunfels has had a flourishing Pokemon Go or “POGO” community for three years, local fans of the new game have begun growing a Wizards Unite or “WU” community as well.

Anthony Zertuche, a New Braunfels resident, POGO and WU player, started the New Braunfels Harry Potter Wizards Unite Community Facebook page the day the game was released to connect local players.

“I am in the POGO group (on Facebook),” Zertuche said. “I decided, since no one has made a page for Wizards Unite and with how well and big the POGO group (has gotten), to go ahead and make a page for Wizards Unite, knowing it will take off since I know many people from the POGO group.”

Zertuche, who has already reached level 10, been sorted into Slytherin (a Hogwarts house) and is an auror (a magical cop) in the game, said he is a big fan of Niantic and was a big fan of Pokemon Go.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Harry Potter as well, so knowing they were making a game like Pokemon Go but for Harry Potter fans, I was super stoked,” Zertuche said. “I grew up with the books and movies, and so I actually pre-registered for the app on the Google play store, so it notified me when the game was ready for download.”

One of Zertuche’s favorite aspects about the game is that it encourages community involvement. Events in the game encourage players to meet up and walk together, promoting social interaction and healthy habits.

"We're excited to team up with AT&T and Simon to create a variety of custom ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite’ gameplay experiences for players visiting the thousands of retail stores and large-scale shopping destinations around the United States," said Omar Tellez, vice president of strategic partnerships at Niantic. "Real world games like ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite’ are all about engaging with the world around you, creating new and unique opportunities for players to interact within their neighborhoods, towns and cities like never-before."

As the top POGO player in New Braunfels both level and experience-wise, Timothy Cuiksa Jr. said he is excited to also get into Wizards Unite.

“I love these types of games I like getting out and about and seeing all kinda of people it keeps me in great shape,” Cuiksa said. “And I love that I can play it with anyone from older people to younger kids.”

Cuiksa often organizes Pokemon Go meetups around town for multiplayer battles or “raids.”

“Some people call me the raid king and it’s cute,” Cuiksa said with a laugh.

Cuiksa said he actually waited a couple days to download Wizards Unite, to allow the company to get any startup bugs out.

“The difference in Pokémon to Harry Potter there’s lots of up-keep for pogo like clearing bag space and Pokémon but in Harry Potter it’s quite simpler but pogo has had its time to grow,” Cuiksa said. “But I’m sure they’ll change it based on new (Harry Potter-based) movies or books and the story and lure.”

What’s cool about the game is it’s bringing together “geeks” and “nerds” of all ages together in New Braunfels, said POGO and WU player Jacob Gutierrez, a level 6 Slytherin and magizoologist. 

“I would never have though I would be talking to older people about Pokemon and Harry Potter, but it’s just fun helping people battle in a raid, and catch that tough-to-get legendary pokemon or helping people battle in Wizards Unite,” Gutierrez said.

The game has only released in select countries so far. For more information about Wizards Unite, visit https://harrypotterwizardsunite.com.

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