Harry Potter the online computer game? Or would that be Harry Potter "the online bulletin board"? No one knows for sure. In fact all we do know is that the name "Pottermore" was trademarked by Warner Bros. in 2009, that an eponymous website appeared mysteriously a week ago, and that it's since been self-identified as "a free website that builds an exciting online experience around the reading of the Harry Potter books."
Nope, implies author J.K. Rowling in a teaser video, calling Pottermore "an online reading experience unlike any other" and describing it as "the same story with a few crucial additions…the most important one [being] you."
It'll also be the exclusive place to purchase digital audiobooks (already available elsewhere, so it sounds like Rowling's reining in distribution rights) and—for the first time anywhere—e-book versions of all the novels. Rowling says she'll be sharing "additional information [she's] been hoarding for years about the world of Harry Potter."
And here's the curious part: the whole thing's been designed in partnership with Sony. This, despite EA's work on the standalone video game tie-ins, and Warner Bros' work on the films.
Sony's take: "Sony’s association with J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore brings together one of the world’s most innovative brands with the most successful book series in history, in a pioneering partnership that will help shape the future of story-telling," said Sony CEO and president Howard Stringer, adding "We are proud to be a part of it, both at this momentous announcement, and as we collaborate on its development over the coming years."
While the e-books probably won't be Sony-exclusive, the company will sell other Pottermore products, say a Pottermore-branded Sony digital reader.
Draconian as Rowling's been about controlling every aspect of her Potter empire (remember her lawsuit against the guy who wrote a reference book?) I wouldn't expect Pottermore to include a massively multiplayer angle anytime soon. It sounds like there will be a game aspect to the site, but it'll be supplemental instead of central. World of Harry-Potter-craft this isn't, though the social network angle sounds pretty involved. Think something like Facebook, only with games that let you join a Hogwarts house and collect points instead, say, of plowing land and managing crops, FarmVille-style.
How do you join? Pottermore slips its doors open on July 31st to a preliminary one million users, after which the doors swing wide to the masses (including the launch of the long-awaited official e-books) sometime this October.