It seems that one of the most likely and obvious of Nintendo developments has been confirmed by Tatsumi Kimishima - the company is working on at least one movie project. Just recently this writer shared the view that Nintendo should shamelessly exploits its IPs to the full, and movies were a notable part of the argument. To save repeating an old point, we'll just copy and paste in a key paragraph from that editorial:
In any case, my broad argument is simple. Even though it may seem far from ideal, perhaps distasteful, to contemplate spinning off TV shows and movies with that Nintendo magic, it could be a key move in establishing the company's place in 21st Century popular culture. The Wii / DS era solidified Nintendo as a brand with younger generations, but having spent a long weekend at the cinema and watching some light-hearted movies on TV, it came home to me how Nintendo's rivals are happily jumping into TV and film to further boost their brands. If Angry Birds, of all things, can do it, then Nintendo could certainly do so with multiple IPs.
As pointed out in that piece, there's been a strong possibility that Nintendo has been exploring these areas for some time, especially as it's observed the diversification of rival gaming brands into movie theatres and onto TV screens. It can even look 'in-house', of sorts, and see how the Pokémon series and movies enjoy varied fortunes around the world. In an era where brand power and mindshare are so vital, Nintendo - it seems - has begun putting some ideas into place.
Of course, these things take time. In the interview Tatsumi Kimishima talks of the first project being 2-3 years away, and the company seems keen to manage projects in-house where possible. Perhaps this means animated projects - the big N has collaborated on animated shows for franchises like Pikmin and Star Fox in recent times - or maybe the plans are broader than that. Nintendo could certainly benefit from partnering with experienced film companies, particularly those with a global outlook. The company seems to have solid relationships with the likes of Warner Bros. and Disney, for example, while leaked emails in the past have shown that Sony Pictures is interested in working with Nintendo IPs.
In any case we've put together a list of five franchises that we think could be good fodder for movies, with a few honourable mentions.
At one point rumoured to be under consideration for a Netflix series, at the time Satoru Iwata denied the speculation but the quality of the publications citing sources suggested there may have been some smoke for that particular fire. In any case, push sketchy amateur fan efforts out of your mind, if you can, and the potential for the franchise is evident.
It's a franchise with the depth to go multiple ways. It could be cartoonish and bright (drawing from the Toon Link titles) or more sombre and serious, with a Twilight Princess approach. The series of games is so broad, and with varied styles, that it's a brand with a lot of potential creative freedom; the themes of good vs evil, linked fates and mysterious powers and lore could play well on the big screen.
Rather like a number of The Legend of Zelda titles, a lot of Fire Emblem games are standalone. Outside of DLC, for example, Fire Emblem Fates is separate from Fire Emblem: Awakening in terms of setting and characters, to look at recent examples. The core style and nature of the worlds - feuding nations, with medieval style characters that possess magic, mutated forms etc - can be wrapped around any storyline and cast of characters that Nintendo sees fit.
As those with the 3DS games also know well it's a series that's pretty darn cinematic already. The animated cutscenes are already key to the experience, and this is one of a small band of Nintendo franchises that isn't shy of striving for impressive scope and storytelling diversity. Intelligent Systems already knows how to spin a good yarn, so whether through films or even a TV series, this one has clear potential.
A trickier inclusion as it only accompanies one game, while it's also worth acknowledging that the charming gobbledygook of Inklings being replaced by voice acting would potentially send some serious fans crazy. Yet money and brand expansion matter the most to big companies like Nintendo, and the nature of Splatoon's success - not just in sales but in a broader cultural impact - make it a strong candidate.
It's a game with quite a lot of lore, too, if you've played the solo offline campaign. There's talk around war, power supplies, technology and more, all splatted with extremely colourful ink. In fact, as a simple tale for children that would look good given the Pixar-style CG treatment, Splatoon could be a strong fit. Whether the IP is a little too young to be considered for the investment of a movie is worth acknowledging, but there's little doubt that with the merchandise and music concerts around the game in Japan, particularly, Nintendo is willing to ride the wave of its success.
If a prospective movie project was left entirely up to Shigeru Miyamoto, this would certainly be a candidate. We've already had animated shorts sold on the eShop, so this is an area that Nintendo's Creative Fellow has already explored - and evidently enjoyed producing.
In terms of how a Pikmin story would take shape over 90 minutes, a comparison that our video man Alex has made is with WALL·E, the cute and touching animated movie. There's a clear environmental message around the Pikmin series, so the idea of a young protagonist discovering Pikmin and helping them to survive could be a possibility, or a project could follow the games more closely and have explorers team up with the diminutive creatures. The visuals around the Pikmin franchise would certainly 'work' in cinema, regardless of the story approach.
A Metroid movie would be a tricky one to script, and would have to do a better job of characterising Samus than Metroid: Other M, which had its share of critics. Yet in this era of superhero and sci-fi movies dominating theatres there seems to be space for a powerful heroine that wields a futuristic suit and weaponry.
The approach, as suggested above, would be a tough one to nail down. A space opera style didn't sit well for some in Other M, but this is a series that could easily draw inspiration from darker, more stylised popular cinema. Take the concept of Super Metroid or Metroid Prime, in which Samus lands on a strange planet and, all alone, must explore and try to survive against a variety of strange creatures. Perhaps drawing style-points from classic movies like Alien for a first film could make way for more bombast in sequels - the Aliens equivalent could be rather like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, for example; that Wii game certainly went a bit 'Hollywood' in its approach.
- Star Fox - We loved the recent 'Battle Begins' animation, but the mixed reaction to Star Fox Zero makes us wonder, sadly, whether the franchise has another extended break ahead of it.
- Kid Icarus - The drama, storytelling and humour seen in Kid Icarus: Uprising provide an excellent template, and there were short animations to promote the game at the time. Unfortunately the series is so erratic in terms of its releases that we doubt the investment would be made to push it into other media.
- Super Mario Bros. - Ok, fine. Most bookmakers would likely have Mario as the main franchise should Nintendo release a movie. We're not sure it'd make a great movie, though, and not just because of the iffy '90s effort; the Mario series, with occasional exceptions, mainly focuses on terrific gameplay with a bare-bones storyline. It feels like a leap to take those characters and weave an enjoyable movie storyline (just because Angry Birds is trying it, doesn't make it a great idea) so while it's likely, it's not in our list of franchises that we necessarily want to see in theatres or on TV.
So there you have some of our thoughts on Nintendo franchises that could make the move into film (or TV). Let us know what you think in the poll and comments below.