Could you possibly imagine a world where Nintendo exclusively developed Harry Potter video games? Well, it nearly happened.
A new report from Unseen64 dives into the state of late 1990s Nintendo of America NST after a small-time book series called Harry Potter first got off the ground in 1997. Nintendo apparently found itself in a position to buy the licensing rights for Harry Potter from then unknown writer J.K. Rowling. Needing to create a pitch within a week, Nintendo did what it does best to sell its ideas to Rowling. It made video games.
Employees were ordered to halt work on Ridge Racer 64, Bionic Commando, and Crystalis and throw together some ideas for Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, and GameCube games. One team developed a third-person action game, similar to the path that the series would eventually take under the guidance of EA, and the second team threw together some animations for a Quidditch spinoff.
“All together it was only a week of insanely furious scribbling things to the digital artists to create animations for mock game demos”
Keep in mind that at the time, Harry Potter was still relatively unknown compared to the blockbuster hit it would eventually become. No general art style had been established yet apart from the cover of a book, and the publishers weren’t quite ready to settle on Nintendo defining the look of Harry Potter. Disagreements on the art style led to the project falling through.
“…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”
Chances are it was just never meant to be, especially when you are competing with Hollywood. The rights of course eventually went into the hands of Warner Bros. who built a multimedia empire out of the best selling novel series. Harry Potter’s video game rights also eventually went to EA, where the games could thrive on multiple platforms.
So ultimately, the deal with Nintendo fell through, but you really have to wonder, what if? What if Nintendo’s pitch impressed Rowling so much that she said “yes?” Harry Potter‘s vision is already defined when it heads into Hollywood, Nintendo lands itself a nice gaming license to work with and possibly rolls in the cash, the movies turn out a lot differently if they even turn out at all!
Maybe the success of the books is hindered with different movies propelling them from behind, and maybe Rowling keeps an editor around to make sure her books remain a reasonable length. Maybe the ending is different, and the last book isn’t so lame. A whole lot of maybes…