Nintendo Pitched For Exclusive Gaming Rights to Harry Potter Back in 1998

By Matt Hill on at

When it's not taking its own sweet time building joy-filled video games at its own pace or trying belatedly to jump back on the mass-market health-tech bandwagon it pretty much started with Wii Fit, Nintendo is also occasionally in the market for nabbing some exclusive IP (hello Bayonetta 2).

But back in 1998 this wasn't just stepping in to publish great games that no one else wants as they don't actually sell very well, it was also, according to a Nintendo of America pitch uncovered by Unseen64, bidding for top-dollar franchises – such as JK Rowling's then-fledgling Harry Potter money-printer.

The big N wanted in on exclusive multimedia rights to the wizard's tales the year after the first book landed, its family-friendly source material/potential to make lots of cash a perfect fit for the firm's image/wallet. In response, the big N was apparently given just a week to pitch for the business – a full week? #creativesolutionsproblems – alongside the likes of Disney and Universal.

Rowling ended up flogging the gaming contract to Warner Bros for a reported £1m – who, in turn, just paid EA to make the games for them – but Nintendo's concept ideas included N64, Game Boy and GameCube versions, including a Quidditch spin-off featuring character art by Marvel's Adi Granov that sounded suspiciously similar to the one EA ended up making.

Alas, it was "creative differences" that was said to have stopped Nintendo hoovering up all that second-hand wand money as its senior management were said to have forced the designers down a more Japanese art style than was expected.

"It went against all my instincts based on what I had read quotes from JK [Rowling] about keeping it strictly British," a Nintendo employee explains of the designs (that's Hogwarts above). "I had to revamp my initial designs and go more manga – I had a big fight about that, but my boss insisted."

Which, while not exactly surprising, is a bit of a shame when you think we could have had a series of Harry Potter games as rich in detail and beauty as the Legend of Zelda series, but instead got this.

Still, at least that's a whole load of Amiibos we now don't feel compelled to buy. [Unseen64 via Eurogamer]