In June 2020, J.K. Rowling, author of the prolific Harry Potter series, posted controversial comments on her Twitter account about the transgender community. She basically argued that if we erase the gender binary, we devalue many of the rights women have fought for. As expected, Rowling received significant backlash from fans and critics alike, and this impacted her popularity among the general public. Read more about her comments in detail and the reactions of fans here.
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
Boycotting and Success
Since the announcement of Hogwarts Legacy, many have threatened to boycott playing the game simply because they do not want to support Rowling and consequently her views regarding the trans community.
“BOYCOTT HOGWARTS LEGACY HARDER 🤬🤬🤬 REEEEEEEEEEEE–” https://t.co/H9X8mc60VR— TrippyLibertyॐ (I Love 🌮s) (@TrippyLiberty) March 8, 2023
However, despite these boycotts, Hogwarts Legacy has been extremely successful, which shows that the movement was either quite small or mostly talk. According to Paul Tassi on February 14th, a writer for Forbes :
“On Early Access launch, Hogwarts Legacy broke records for the most streams of a single game with 1.28 million concurrents.” He continues, “Hogwarts Legacy peaked at 879,308 players on Steam on Sunday, behind only Cyberpunk 2077 for the most concurrents for a single player game.”
And according to Jennifer Maas, as of February 23rd:
“Hogwarts Legacy” has wingardium leviosa-ed Warner Bros. Games’ sales, earning $850 million in global sales and moving more than 12 million units in just its first two weeks post-launch on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC, according to numbers released Thursday by the video game company. That marks the biggest global launch ever for the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned brand, with the “Harry Potter” action role-playing game also setting the Twitch record for single-player games with 1.28 million peak concurrent viewers at launch.”
Some new Hogwarts Legacy stats:— Hogwarts Legacy News (@HogwartsLegacy_) March 10, 2023
406 million hours played
674 million magical plants grown
405 million potions brewed
2.25 billion Dark Wizards defeated pic.twitter.com/xVbQn6HJKO
Transgender Representation in Hogwarts Legacy
Perhaps in response to Rowling’s comments, Hogwarts Legacy actually includes a transgender character. Sirona is a bartender at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, and although she looks feminine, her character has a deep voice. She even tells other characters in a cutscene that, with her classmates, it “took them a second to realize that I [she] was actually a witch, not a wizard.”
However, this representation present in Hogwarts Legacy still did not satisfy some critics. According to Newsweek, some expressed frustration with the name given to the trans bartender. Her name is Sirona Ryan, and many understood this name to be masculine, including the prefix “Sir” and surname “Ryan.” Some viewed this name as a play on words, showing that Sirona is not considered entirely female although she has chosen to transition.
In addition, Hogwarts Legacy also provides non-binary options for character creation at the beginning of the game, allowing the player to choose whether their character stays in a witch or wizard dormitory. At any point, players are not confined to identifying as specifically male or female characters.
Unfortunately, Rowling did not respond to a request for comment regarding the addition of this trans character. However, we do know that although she receives royalties from the game, she did not aid in the actual writing of the story.
So, Did Rowling’s Reputation Impact the Game’s Success?
In short, no, Rowling’s comments do not seem to have negatively impacted the game’s success although many attempted to hurt its reputation and sales through boycotting. Whether or not people agree with Rowling’s views, it is difficult to resist playing such an immersive, well-written, and complex game. On the whole, most reviews from players have been extremely positive. According to Metacritic and Opencritic, the game received a score of 86 out of 100, which is pretty good.
Keep in mind that Rowling has made, and will make, a lot of money from royalties in many ways, whether or not people choose to boycott this particular video game. So, we might as well sit back, relax, and take the opportunity to enter this fantasy experience. It will be well worth the time spent.