Harry Potter Dodged a Bludger By Dismissing Nintendo’s Bid
It seems that Harry Potter fans unknowingly dodged a pretty big bullet when Nintendo's pitch to secure exclusive access to Harry Potter rights was denied.
According to Unseen 64, in 1998 Nintendo started to frantically work on a pitch that would secure the exclusive rights to the Harry Potter franchise. While this might have been pretty cool for Nintendo, the company didn't really have any way of branching the series out into anything but video games. Basically, if Nintendo had acquired the rights, fans could say goodbye to the film series that they have come to know and love.
Nintendo really did try to add the Harry Potter franchise into its resume, though. It completely dropped development on three games that it was working on at the time (Ridge Racer 64, Bionic Commando and Crystalis) to begin development on two games revolving around the fantasy world -- a third person adventure title as well as a potential quidditch-based game. However, things went pretty downhill from there considering the artists that were working on the games and the heads of the company were in complete disagreement about what art style the games should take on.
"It went against all my instincts based on what I had read quotes from JK about keeping it strictly British, and I had to revamp my initial designs and go more manga/Japanese -- I had a big fight about that, but my boss insisted," explained a former artist from Nintendo's studio. So, the beginning artwork had to be completely slashed and the team had to start over from scratch. This is pretty interesting and makes me wonder if this wasn't one of the reasons that Rowling looked towards bigger companies for her franchise.
And go to bigger companies she did -- looking towards name such as Disney, Universal and the one who ultimately got the bid, Warner Bros. Although there were certain artists that did get to take a more realistic approach to the characters they were creating, it seems the art followed more traditional Japanese style in the design. Although Nintendo is a Japan-based company, the Harry Potter series is not a Japanese book, which makes it seem like a pretty bad business move to force it into such a specific style.
The good news is that we all know that the franchise ended up in good hands with Warner Bros. who paid £1m for the exclusive rights, and eventually Electronic Arts who Warner Bros. looked to in order to create the video game adaptations of the films. While those games may not have been the best, at least they weren't confined to just one console. The bad news is that Nintendo let a (potentially) huge money-making series slip through its fingers.
You can check out some of the concept art and more details on what could have been over on Unseen64's site.