Hogwarts Legacy was announced in 2020, and ever since has been dogged online by its association with J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books and creator of the Wizarding World setting, whose views on trans issues have been so controversial and widely reported-upon that Warner Bros. is desperate to make clear she has nothing to do with the game's creation. Now, a few weeks before its February 10 release, the de facto gaming forum Restera has completely banned discussion of the game.
A statement (opens in new tab) posted by ResetEra general manager B-Dubs on behalf of the moderation team reads:
"After continued internal discussion, we began to start outlining the issues put forth by Rowling and the game in question and each time, and as we discussed it all, we kept coming back to the simple fact that Rowling is not only a bigot but is actively pushing, in her position as a wealthy and famous individual, for legislation that will hurt trans people. That she uses the influence and money gained from her success with Harry Potter to push transphobic legislation".
ResetEra had previously, in February 2021, banned "promotional" activity for the game: So no threads about announcements or new trailers, no hype threads, "no fluff pieces about its features”. Now it's going the whole hogwart.
"The mod team has decided to expand our prior ban on promotion for the Hogwarts game to include the game itself. There will be no OT and no discussion of this game".
The statement ends with a warning to the community about either commenting on content ban decisions by the mod team or advocating for their overturn. As is standard for posts of this type in RestEra, the thread does not allow replies.
This may be unprecedented, but it's not wholly unexpected. ResetEra's stance has been deeply sceptical about the game since day one, and the forum's general atmosphere can be fairly described as left-leaning. 2021's ban on promotion was prompted by ResetEra members discovering that a producer on Hogwarts Legacy had a history of making anti-social justice videos. The producer subsequently resigned (opens in new tab).
ResetEra itself is a forum set up as a breakaway from NeoGAF, which is still around but has arguably been relegated in the pecking order, and so perhaps unsurprisingly NeoGAF is going all-in on Hogwarts Legacy. At the time of writing, the top stickied thread on the gaming discussion section (opens in new tab) is a Hogwarts Legacy meme competition, while the top user thread is about the game's pre-loads going live.
The controversy around Rowling's views seems unlikely to abate, particularly as they so intersect with ongoing cultural battles: The biggest story in British politics at the moment is the UK government blocking the Scottish Parliament's Gender Recognition Bill (opens in new tab). Rowling is a prominent and vocal critic of the bill.
Rowling does of course continue to make money from the Harry Potter and Wizarding World franchises, which is where the arguments for banning or shunning associated products ends up. But it seems unlikely that the blacklisting of Hogwarts Legacy will impact the author in any meaningful way. For context, there are various estimates of J.K. Rowling's net worth but the most oft-cited is around the $1 billion mark. Even were this inaccurate, it is fair to say that she's not short of an ivory backscratcher or two.
Warner Bros. is meanwhile between a rock and a hard place. Harry Potter is one of its crown jewels, a series that has made more money than the likes of Batman. This gets fuzzy but, by some estimates, Harry Potter on its own is bigger than the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Moving away from it is not an option. But it clearly does recognise that the contemporary reputation of its creator is damaging: The entire Wizarding World side of things was, when first created, titled J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World.
The media giant can say Rowling has nothing to do with Hogwarts Legacy and, beyond bank transfers, that is undoubtedly true. But any Harry Potter product is inextricably linked to the author who created this world and its characters and, for ResetEra at least, that means one thing for Hogwarts Legacy: Expelliarmus.