The late ’90s and early 2000s saw Nintendo struggle to fend off competition from rival home consoles, seemingly lacking the ace in the hole that they needed to come out on top. However, things could have been quite different, as newly uncovered information has revealed that the company was chasing the rights to adapt the hugely popular Harry Potter series of books back in 1998.
Of course, J. K. Rowling’s novels went on to be adapted by Warner Bros. into one of the most successful movie franchises of all time, a critical and commercial success story that helped launch the careers of actors like Robert Pattinson and Emma Watson. The exact machinations of Nintendo’s Harry Potter pitch are unclear, but the sleuths over at Unseen 64 suggest that it could have prevented the films being made at all.
Instead, Nintendo of America’s NST team would have released video game adaptations alongside the launch of each new book, starting on their then-current Nintendo 64 and later moving on to the Game Boy Advance and GameCube. These games would have been third person action adventure titles, but a spin-off based on the in-universe game of Quidditch was also planned.
It seems that a major factor in the failure of the pitch was the fact that NST bosses encouraged the team to give their concept art a Japanese, manga-inspired flavor — ignoring Rowling’s preference for a quintessentially British take on the source material. Similar issues of tone would seem to be the biggest stumbling block to the recently announced Netflix adaptation of The Legend of Zelda.
Coupled with the fact that pitches from other companies could offer film and television as well as video game projects, Rowling rejected Nintendo’s proposal for the burgeoning franchise. Still, the thought of the company gaining the rights to such a cultural juggernaut makes you wonder just how differently things could have turned out.
Having just lost the hugely popular Final Fantasy series to PlayStation consoles, it would follow that Nintendo’s Harry Potter could have been something of a replacement; an ongoing adventure series that would appeal to a broad audience. It’s difficult to imagine Rowling choosing video game adaptations over film, but it would have been a very interesting twist on the console wars.
That said, the final product might not have lived up to the promise of a Nintendo-developed Harry Potter series. NST would be leading the charge, and the studio is known more for titles like Metroid Prime Hunters and the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games than the real jewels of the companies back catalog. On the other hand, this could have been the perfect project for NST to show off their capabilities — we’ll never know.
What do you think of the prospect of Nintendo grabbing the Harry Potter license? Are you disappointed that it never came to pass? Or are the films better than video game adaptations could ever have been? Let us know in the comments section below.
Source: Unseen 64