Does JK Rowling profit from Hogwarts Legacy?

Harry Potter author JK Rowling superimposed next to bags of money and footage from the Hogwarts Legacy video game

Hogwarts Legacy is arguably one of the most controversial game releases in recent years, as Harry Potter creator JK Rowling continues to be criticised for her opinions on the trans community

The Harry Potter spin-off video game sees players become a at Hogwarts in the 1800s, in a large open-world filled with magical beasts and spells.

Some gamers are calling for the game to be boycotted in protest at Rowling’s statements on the trans community, despite the author confirming she was not directly involved in its creation.

As Hogwarts Legacy finally hits shelves on Friday (10 February), here’s everything you need to know about Rowling’s involvement with the new Harry Potter game and how she may benefit from its release. 

Will JK Rowling profit from Hogwarts Legacy?

According to Forbes, JK Rowling will indeed earn royalties from the Hogwarts Legacy game, despite not being directly involved in its creation

Though Rowling did not create the game’s characters or story, as the author of Harry Potter she owns the rights to the franchise’s intellectual property, meaning that she makes royalties based on Harry Potter merchandise, the movies, the Warner Brothers theme park, and of course, sales of the books. 

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“JK Rowling is not directly involved in the creation of the game,” Warner Bros previously said in a statement.

“However, her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World.

“This is not a new story from JK Rowling.”

Exactly how much Rowling will profit from the game is not known, but the release of the game is likely to further ignite interest in the books, which she also makes money from. 

Why is Hogwarts Legacy so controversial?

For the most part, the open-world Harry Potter video game has proved divisive because of JK Rowling herself. 

The author has become notorious for her “gender critical” views, campaigning against gender recognition reform and weighing in on other trans rights issues.

Hogwarts Legacy will allow gamers to create trans characters, and has one trans character within the story, but trans gamers have said that due to Rowling’s history, attempts to make the game more diverse may be too little, too late. 

Twitch streamer Boba previously told PinkNews: “JK Rowling has a loud voice and she knows it.

“She knows she’ll get attention for the things that she’s saying. She knows that people will see that and, unfortunately, agree with her.

Harry Potter is a tricky one too. A lot of people’s identities are centred around it, and when you try to tarnish it, I know it’s super difficult for people to let go of it.”

Warner Bros Games president David Haddad, however, reportedly said back in 2020 that JK Rowling “has the right to hold her opinions” on trans rights.

According to a video seen by Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier, Haddad said: “While JK Rowling is the creator of Harry Potter… she’s a private citizen also.

“And that means she’s entitled to express her personal opinion on social media. I may not agree with her, and I might not agree with her stance on a range of topics, but I can agree she has the right to hold her opinions.”

There have also been controversies surrounding the development team at Avalanche Software.

Its former lead designer Troy Leavitt was found to have previously run a far-right YouTube channel. Leavitt tweeted in 2021 announcing that he had resigned from his position at the company.

The game, which is out now on PlayStation 5, PC, and Xbox X/S, with a PS4 and Xbox One release to follow in April, has been criticised by trans gamers for its association with Rowling and the handling of trans characters in the game itself.

A screenshot from Hogwarts Legacy video game showing trans character Sirona Ryan wearing a white shirt and brown waistcoat
The trans character’s inclusion has felt a bit too ‘insincere’ for LGBTQ+ gamers. (Warner Bros)

What about the game’s trans character Sirona Ryan?

One trans character has been included in Hogwarts Legacy – a sympathetic bartender working at famous Hogsmeade tavern The Three Broomsticks named Sirona Ryan.

While trans representation is incredibly important, this appears to be one of the few instances where the LGBTQ+ community isn’t thrilled about a trans character’s inclusion.

Various LGBTQ+ users on social media suggested that the Hogwarts Legacy character felt forced in an effort to repair the reputation the Harry Potter series has in the trans community.

“You can tell a trans character was added so the developers could be like, ‘look, look see’, because you speak to them… and their first voice line is like, ‘I always knew I was different, ever since I was a child,’” trans streamer Devon said.

Others took issue with the character’s name, specifically that as her first name contains the honorific “sir,” and her last name is a common male first name.

Some have compared it to the “tone-deaf” names of other Harry Potter characters, including Asian character Cho Chang and Black character Kingsley Shacklebolt, which have been criticised for years.

In-house developers have allegedly complained about the character’s inclusion, according to trans journalist James Stephanie Sterling, who says they were told by a developer that Sirona Ryan was added “to pivot the conversation away from [JK Rowling]”.

The claims were corroborated by researcher Liam Robertson, who was reportedly told by a developer that the character was “performative bulls**t”.

Robertson previously told PinkNews that developers first mentioned a trans character appearing in the game around the start of 2021.

“Its inclusion was received poorly by the few developers I spoke with,” he said.

“All of them seemed to suggest that it was hastily tacked on to hand wave criticism that the game was associated with transphobia.”

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