Over the past few weeks, multiple people who follow my blog have asked me for an honest opinion on Pottermore and the beta process it has been undergoing. Though I’ve sounded off as Rita Skeeter, and occasionally voiced frustration on twitter, I have not, until now, written a truly honest account of the site and my opinion in regards to it.
The truth is, the site is… cute. It’s like a digital pop-up book, with little trinkets to find and collect. I think once there are more books online it will be full of stuff to do. At the moment, you can finish the one available book in a matter of hours. Communication is so limited that no one is logging on to socialize with other Potter fans, because it’s practically impossible to do so. Meaning that aside from a drive to earn points for your house, you will be out of things to do on the site in a day.
Casual fans will probably lose interest in this quickly.
The Beta process has been handled poorly. This is no secret. The clue challenge presented the whole thing as if it was a treat. A chance to be the first Harry Potter fans to visit what was promised to be the most amazing Harry Potter experience you could ever hope to have. Fans scrambled at all hours to try to get in as fast as possible, and I was no exception. On July 31st I got maybe an hour and a half of sleep. First from staying up to FIND OUT about the clue challenge. Then to staying up until the first clue went live.
I was there refreshing until the clue went live, and even then it was evident they were not prepared. That night I had my first frustrating experiences with what us Betas not so fondly refer to as the “Purple Screen of Death”. I registered quickly, within minutes, and had high hopes of being in one of the first batches of users to be granted access to the site.
I was sorely mistaken.
The first batch of emails hit a little over a week after the quill challenge ended, and it was tiny compared to the mass of Beta testers they had allowed to register. I was not amongst them, despite some of the other day registrants being allowed in. We know now that these were all the earliest to answer the clue in subsequent days, but that didn’t make the realization that things were going to be slow going any less bittersweet.
In the first week only 25,000 users were allowed in. Less than the 1/7th we assume would have been one day’s worth of registrants. We wouldn’t get close to that until September. I didn’t get in until the last weekend in August.
As of the beginning of this week, the last of the Beta period, less than half of the million were in. Then, today, Pottermore Insider announced that the remaining half a million e-mails had been sent out.
Servers have been wonky, at best. They have had their ups and downs throughout the Beta period, but the past week has been particularly bad ever since Pottermore ramped up the rate at which they were sending out welcome e-mails. Feeling the crunch of time they seem to have disregarded site stability in order to meet their promise of getting the million in before September 30th.
During the past month and a half the dueling game has been online for less than 36 hours of that. It’s said, constantly, that the area was down for maintenance. No communication has been made on WHEN it will come online, or what caused it’s being taken down in the first place.
Communication from those running the site is negligible at best. Normally in Beta’s there is a known glitch list, and a way of reporting glitches more effectively then what we have been presented with on Pottermore. Many have been stuck with a particularly nasty looping potion glitch for weeks. And with out dueling, potion making is the only thing to do once you have finished the book. Many haven’t logged on in ages due to this glitch.
When Pottermore does communicate, half the time the blog says one thing while another thing is actually happening. Insider says that potions will be updated to shorten brewing time. A few days later potions IS updated, with multiple changes, but the brew times remained the same. Insider says we should be receiving a survey in our e-mail that has never come.
It seems that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.
We are three days from the end of September, and sure one million accounts have been activated. But to say they all have access to the site is still a half-truth. One million people can not access the site at the same time. I wish there was a way for us to find out exactly how many people CAN be online at the same time.
Many people seem to be under the impression that on October 1st the site will go full public, but honestly there is no reason to believe that is the case. The public opening being set as “October 2011″ was probably so vague on purpose.And honestly, from my perspective, they’ll be lucky if they can make it in time for Halloween. I also wouldn’t be surprised if in October registration is opened like it was during the quill challenge, and yet another crowd of people will be waiting for a magic e-mail letting them know their account is ready.
The bottom line: they’ve got a LONG WAY TO GO. The smartest thing for them to do right now, would be to open up communications, and get some more servers online and running. If they think they are going to be able to float further down the line with just the servers they have in place, then someone on the staff is delusional.
I’ve been writing this entry over a couple of hours, and the whole time the Purple Screen of Death has been refreshing. Once it let me log in, but then the gateway went back to the Purple Screen. I haven’t been able to log on all night.
Gone are my silly hopes from a few weeks ago that the Pottermore team had some kind of plan to get this whole thing on track. Gone is my patience.
And yet still it refreshes, in hopes that one day I’ll be able to log on glitch free, duel some friends, and browse through more of the books.
You never know, miracles do happen.