Nintendo may be making a return to the big screen, its president revealed in an interview with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun Monday. The company is exploring the potential of films based on popular video game franchises such as “Super Mario Bros.” and “The Legend of Zelda.” Another possibility is drawing on the material to create other digital content, a firm representative told Reuters.
Nintendo is in talks with several production companies, with the goal of releasing its first new movie within the next three years. The production and its successors could introduce the firm’s characters to a broader audience, which could bolster its video game business.
Films may serve to diversify Nintendo’s portfolio at a time when its core console business is shrinking, with video game players increasingly choosing Microsoft’s Xbox One or Sony’s PlayStation 4 over its Wii U. It’s the same philosophy that propelled Nintendo’s recent entry into the mobile game space, beginning with the social game “Miitomo” and continuing with the forthcoming “Animal Crossing” and “Fire Emblem.” Nintendo also previously announced a plan to license its properties for theme park attractions.
This wouldn’t be Nintendo’s first foray into the film business. A 1993 cinematic version of “Super Mario Bros.” was a pretty high-profile flop that effectively crushed the company’s interest in movies for a couple of decades. Starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as brothers Mario and Luigi, respectively, and Dennis Hopper as an anthropomorphized Bowser, the production grossed just $21 million, despite an estimated budget of $48 million.
In contrast, “Pokémon,” co-owned by Nintendo, has established itself as multimedia juggernaut with a long-running cartoon and a number of films. Nintendo is paid royalties under a licensing deal, as Reuters reported. The live-action rights to “Pokémon” recently sparked a bidding war among Legendary Entertainment, Sony and Warner Bros.
Clarifying the comments made to the Asahi newspaper by Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima, a company representative said he was referring broadly to “video content.” That could mean films, television shows or digital content in partnership with a streaming platform. Of course, Nintendo is not the only video game company with an interest in Hollywood. In a partnership with Legendary, the Blizzard Entertainment unit of Activision Blizzard will release “Warcraft” June 10, and the parent company also plans to launch a “Call of Duty” movie franchise.