Nintendo Pitched For Harry Potter's Exclusive Media Rights Back In 1998

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It’s not a pairing that immediately comes to mind, but at one point in 1998 there was a chance that Nintendo would own exclusive media rights to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Previously it was assumed that the only companies going after the popular book rights back then wanted them to create films, but we now know that wasn’t necessarily the case.

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Nintendo’s concept art for The Hogwarts Express. (Courtesy Unseen64)

Studios such as Warner Bros., Universal, and Disney all made pitches for the series at one point or another. Of course, as we know today, Warner Bros. eventually won out and received exclusive media rights for a mere $2 million. Considering the film series that ran from 2001 to 2011 eventually made $7.7 billion worldwide, it was quite the investment.
The folks over at Unseen64 have discovered that Nintendo was also in the running at one point. Thanks to some help from a former artist from Nintendo’s internal team, Nintendo Software Technology, Unseen64 was able to get a lot of information and several pieces of concept art of the Nintendo/Harry Potter project that never was. As Unseen64’s anonymous source claims, Nintendo split their development studio into two different sections. One group was working on pitching a third-person adventure title to Rowling, and the other was working on a potential sports game based around Harry Potter’s fictionalized game of quidditch.
Had Nintendo won the rights that they wanted, they would indefinitely own all non-book media forms of the series, including any movies, TV shows, games, or anything else they wanted to do.
One of the hang-ups that likely lead to Nintendo losing out was a dispute over style. As anyone who has seen the Harry Potter films knows, they retain their British origins very faithfully. This is at the request of Rowling, who wanted the books to keep the British charm that was injected into them. Despite several pleas from artists within Nintendo, the company’s pitch involved a lot of manga and Japenese-inspired art, instead of the British tone that the author was looking for.
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Nintendo’s concept art for Hogwarts. (Courtesy Unseen64)

The other big reason was the sheer amount of exposure that other studios were offering over Nintendo’s own. While Nintendo would surely have made Harry Potter a staple in gaming, there is no way that they could have given it as big of a film presence as the eventual winner Warner Bros. has.
Despite not being sold to the Big N, Harry Potter has still made an impact on home consoles. Along with several games based on the books created by Electronic Arts, Potter and his pals have also showed up in LEGO form with the LEGO Harry Potter games.
The world of Harry Potter if Nintendo had won those exclusive rights is one that is fascinating to think about. Would there have been any films at all? Would they have been nearly as good? Would Harry Potter be right up alongside Nintendo icons such as Link and Mario, or would the first few games have failed and led him to be thrown to the wayside and forever locked inside the series of books? There’s also a chance that Nintendo could have folded him into another solo show like Mario and The Legend of Zelda had – neither of which are remembered very fondly.
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Nintendo’s concept art for Hagrid’s Hut (Courtesy Unseen64)

If you’re interested in more Unseen64 (and you should be, they do really great, and accurate, investigating and archiving), check out the source link below. Also below is an episode of their podcast where they discuss these new findings of the Nintendo Harry Potter cross-over that never was.
Source: Unseen64
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