In an interview with the popular Japanese newspaper Asahi News, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima indicated that the company is considering selling the intellectual property rights of some of its most beloved characters, to film studios in an attempt to conquer the big screen. During the interview Kimishima qualified this by stating that in order to ensure quality, and to stop mistakes from the past rearing their heads again, the company’s current thinking is “that we’d like to do as much as we can ourselves.” Responding to questions he also reiterated that, though they would not have to partner with a Hollywood film studio he wanted someone “who is able to take things globally” and suggested the possibility of both live-action films as well as more pixar-esque animated fares.
Now, on the surface this sounds like an interesting idea, giving us a deeper look into the stories behind our favourite games, with the possibility of creating a Nintendo cinematic universe, similar to what Marvel has created with its various superheroes. This would provide the opportunity for some very interesting crossovers, and would certainly have an audience draw. However, as an outside observer, it also seems a rather risky move for Nintendo, with films based on games not having the best cinematic history.
Indeed, Nintendo attempted a film version of some of their most beloved characters before, with the travesty that was Super Mario Brothers released in 1993. Based around the idea that the world split into two parallel universes when a meteor hit the Earth 65 million years ago, the film was panned by critics and made $20 million loss at the box office, with even Bob Hoskins himself, who took on the role of Mario, describing it as “a fucking nightmare”. During the aforementioned interview Kimishima even admitted that “the box office receipts on that weren’t so good”, which is very much an understatement. So, clearly Nintendo will have to tread carefully in this new venture.
Examining some of the possible games that could give rise to cinematic counterparts, one which keeps coming up is the idea of a live-action Pokémon film, with Kimishima confidently stating “it’s not like this is a realm we’re inexperienced with”. Now, it cannot be denied that he is right here, currently Pokémon has 19 feature films under its belt, which follow the story set out in the anime. This is an impressive number, and so it has to be asked, do we really need a live action movie? If they were to do a live action movie, the change in the Pokémon art design would almost certainly divide their market. Also, they would have to look at very niche areas of the Pokémon universe in order to tell a story we haven’t seen already, which also has the risk of alienating parts of their audience.
Now, that isn’t to say that other games couldn’t make the transition to the big screen. One very popular option is Zelda, the mystical roleplaying game which revolves around the Hylian protagonist Link in his attempt to rescue Princess Zelda, facing various NPCs and enemies along the way. With so many rich worlds and characters, there is certainly a lot of scope to bring this to the big screen and Kimishima coyly agrees that he is “certainly aware that there is an immense demand” for a Zelda film, indicating that this may be one of the first to be made, if a deal is completed.
In regards to when this will all happen, it appears Nintendo is currently in talks with various companies. It should also be noted that they currently have an agreement with Universal to create rides for their Florida theme park based on their characters, which could prove very useful should they wish to pursue films. Whatever way you look at it, this is certainly a change of tact from Nintendo and, with increasing competition from Sony and Microsoft, one we can only pray turns out for the best.