1997's GoldenEye 007 was a massive commercial and critical success for Nintendo, selling 8 million copies worldwide and generating an enormous amount of revenue. Unsurprisingly, Nintendo wanted a sequel and even asked developer Rare to make one - but the UK company, which was at the time a second-party Nintendo studio, turned down the opportunity.
Speaking at the GameCity festival in the UK, GoldenEye designer Martin Hollis recounted the moment when the fateful question was asked:
I thought about this and was not sure I'd really want to. We had a small chat, three or four of us on the team. It was like, 'No'. We sent the message back, 'The answer is no. We don't plan to make another Bond game from another Bond film'. And that was it.
While other companies would have pushed through and forced Hollis and his team to produce a sequel regardless, Nintendo accepted the news and no further Bond games were produced by the Japanese veteran. The video game licence passed to EA shortly afterwards, which made the decidedly lackluster Tomorrow Never Dies - a game which benefitted greatly from the hype built up by Rare's offering.
Hollis is still amazed at how peacefully Nintendo took the refusal:
It must have grossed, I don't know, $400m or something. You might've thought that on a commercial basis someone at Nintendo, even lower down or higher up or whatever, would've said, "Well, are you sure?", but out of respect for the creator and the importance of the people who actually made the game, that was it.
As we all know, Rare's next big FPS was Perfect Dark, which Hollis classes as a "spiritual sequel" to GoldenEye. He would leave Rare just over a year into the game's development, but claims he was present when all of the key design decisions were made - one of which was the lead character being female:
I wanted to make a game that starred a woman. Partly it was Nikita, the film by Luc Besson, and also Dishonored, a 1930s movie starring a spy who was a woman, and a general sort of sensibility that I thought it would be interesting to have a woman be the centre of attention. We constructed this character, to the very best of our ability, to be the centrepiece of the game.
There are some who feel that Joanna Dark lacks the compelling hook of James Bond, and Hollis feels this has more to do with the secret agent having decades of history behind him than the actual character:
It's very tough in a first-person shooter to develop a personality or a backstory, and what Bond brings you is honestly a lot more. You hear the theme tune and you're right there.
Hollis concluded his talk at GameCity by briefly summing up the gritty details of GoldenEye's development - it was made by a team of ten in two and three-quarter years, with a budget of $2m - and before he left the stage was asked what he believed was the reason behind Nintendo's amazing track record in games development. His reply was refreshingly straightforward:
The secret of Nintendo is simple: always do good games.