Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nintendo's decision to cancel GoldenEye XBLA: bad for gamers, good for Nintendo?

by Steve

The game would have been available on Xbox Live Arcade, and the Wii's Virtual Console.

Everyone loves GoldenEye 007, and when it came to light that Rare was working on an enhanced version of the N64 classic, people were absolutely ecstatic. The screenshots that surfaced were amazing, and the leaked footage of the game running at 60 frames per second, the way it was meant to be played, was the stuff of dreams. According to many different sources, including actual members of Rare's staff, the project was all too real. As the story goes, Nintendo, Microsoft, Rare, and Activision, the current holders of the Bond license, had reached a joint agreement which would have allowed the game to be released on both Xbox Live Arcade and the Wii's Virtual Console. Unfortunately, just as the game was nearing release, Nintendo backed out and pretty much sabotaged the project, ensuring that no one would get to play it.

When the story went public, many gamers, myself included, were angry at Nintendo. Some even went so far as to say the company cares more about making money than they do pleasing gamers. "After all," they said, "everyone with an Xbox 360 or Wii would have been able to play an awesome game. Everyone would have been happy, but Nintendo wanted it all to themselves." While I felt the same way for a long time, I tried to put myself in Nintendo's shoes to try and see why they would have killed the project. The answer I came up with: it would have been a business mistake for Nintendo.

Screenshot of GoldenEye for Xbox Live Arcade
A remarkable improvement over the original. Click for full size.

What gamers need to keep in mind is that Nintendo is a business. More importantly, they are a publicly traded company, just like many others in the gaming world. Publicly traded companies have shareholders. When they make money, their shareholders make money. When their shareholders see a return on their investment, they keep their money in the company, allowing them to use that money to make more products and make even more money, which in turn increases the value of each of the company's shares. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Unfortunately, shareholders are a jittery bunch, and they will pull their funds out at the first sign of trouble. When Nintendo unveiled the Wii U controller at E3 2011, some industry analysts gave skeptical opinions of the company's new direction, and investors panicked, selling their shares as if their lives depended on it. As a result, the price of Nintendo shares dropped to levels not seen since 2006, before the insanely successful launch of the Wii. When you are a publicly traded company, you must keep your shareholders convinced that their money is in good hands or they will jump ship and invest their money in something else. So what does this all have to do with GoldenEye? Everything.

If GoldenEye had been ported to the Wii and the Xbox 360, there would have been no comparison. While the graphics of the Wii version could have been updated with higher resolution textures, higher polygon counts, and upscaled to run in 480p, it would have paled in comparison to the breathtaking HD visuals of the Xbox 360 version. And on top of that, Wi-Fi Connection is a pretty poor service compared to the feature-rich experience that is Xbox Live. I could go into detail here, explaining why this is true, but I don't think it's necessary. The big N's Internet service for the Wii was underwhelming and everyone knows it. The bottom line is, GoldenEye 007: XBLA Edition would have been superior to GoldenEye 007: Wii Edition in every way imaginable.

Screenshot of HD version of GoldenEye for Xbox Live Arcade
The Wii version wouldn't have looked nearly as good. And the online multiplayer would have been inferior as well.

For Nintendo to allow a competitor to offer a better version of one of their most iconic games would have been a colossal embarrassment. Analysts and reviewers would have unanimously declared the Xbox 360 port to be the definitive version of GoldenEye, and scores of gamers would have "switched sides," joining the Microsoft crowd. Investors would have nervously observed this, and a pretty good percentage of them would have followed suit, pulling their money out of Nintendo and pumping it into Microsoft.

Screenshot of GoldenEye 007 for N64
For reference, here are the untouched visuals.

As I mentioned in my last feature, GoldenEye 007 is my favorite game of all time, and if there was anyone who wanted to see it get re-released, it was me. But if the game had seen a dual release on the Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade, everyone except Nintendo fanboys would have known which version was the better deal, even if that meant spending hundreds of dollars on a console for just one game. I don't own an Xbox 360, but if GoldenEye had been re-released on both systems, I know which one I'd have sprung for, and Nintendo knows too. And for many fans of the big N, it would have acted as the gateway to a new world of gaming, and the inevitable HD release of the original Perfect Dark as an Xbox exclusive would have sealed the deal. For those who didn't care for Perfect Dark, the enhanced XBLA versions of the Banjo games would have served the purpose just as well.

Nintendo is a corporation, and the goal of all corporations is to make money while keeping as much of an advantage over their competitors as possible. As much as I hate to admit it, from a business perspective, Nintendo's decision to cancel the enhanced versions of GoldenEye 007 was a good one. The big N knew that Microsoft had a stacked deck, and I can't blame them for refusing to let Microsoft play it.

Alleged list of Achievements for the Xbox Live Arcade Version.

The Wii U: A New Hope?

Even though Nintendo's new console would make it possible for owners of both systems to get identical versions of GoldenEye HD, Microsoft would still have a huge advantage over Nintendo. Xbox 360 owners will outnumber Wii U owners for years to come, and the big N's new online service will be playing catch up to Xbox Live in every category. Here we are, roughly half a decade after the game's cancellation, and Microsoft still has a stacked deck. A dual release of GoldenEye HD? I'd love to see that, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Related Article: The 15th Anniversary of GoldenEye 007: A Retrospective

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Special thanks to MundoRare for all of the information that made this article possible.
Check out their GoldenEye XBLA articles at:

Screenshots courtesy of MundoRare -
Used under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.


  1. Eduardo HernándezSeptember 22, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    But Steve the upgraded graphics does not look to be a problem for the Wii, i dont think could have been a major difference, like the multi-platform games of the PS2,GC and XBox era, not for buy a console. by the way do you liked the remake of wii or ps3? it has the felling of GOldenEye?

    1. The graphics could have been seriously upgraded for the Virtual Console version, but the maximum resolution of the Wii is 480p, which pales in comparison to 1080p. Also, the textures wouldn't have been nearly as detailed and the framerate wouldn't have been a steady 60 fps. The Xbox 360 version would have been superior in every way from a graphical standpoint.

      As for the new GoldenEye 007 which was released a few years ago, I think it's pretty good but it just doesn't have the same appeal to me.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting! Hope to hear from you again!

    2. Goldeneye Wii and goldeneye reloaded suck. It's not fun, it's boring.

  2. Ok I have to reply to this as Steve, the author, neglected one key fact. Nobody received an HD remaster of the game on any console. So what was the next best option? If we couldn't re-release the game, let's remake the game to be more modern, fresh, and different enough that it is no longer the original and no longer bound by all the legal mumbo jumbo. So in 2010, Nintendo did this by releasing a new game called Goldeneye 007 (2010). Relatively the same name as before but a quite different game. This made some hopefuls happy. They got to relive the game to some degree.

    Now if I may, your article sort of suggested that most console owners (particularly current Wii owners) aren't dual console owners. In saying that it meant if a gamer wanted to play a game on one of the other two big consoles they would have to purchase that console first. You tried to suggest that the awesomeness that the original 007 in HD would be that that would be enough for Wii owners to jump ship. However I must disagree.

    A year after the new Goldeneye 007 (2010) game was released on the Wii, it upgraded to HD, better online, and more and then released on the 360 and PS3 under the title: Goldeneye 007: Reloaded. This HD version of the game was better than the Wii version in every way. However, one just simply has to go to to add up the numbers and realize that even though 360 AND (in this case) the PS3 versions were better, people were not jumping ship. The Wii version (even though it did have a year lead) has sold 1.7 million copies to date where as the 360 and PS3 versions have sold a total .96 million copies (.59 and .37 respectively) to date. Clearly this proves that even though the HD version was better, Wii owners were not jumping ship.

    So how could this all mean something when talking about the original 007 game from the N64? Well it is simple. Nintendo should just make it so in the agreement that they get a limited time (1 year, maybe?) console exclusivity before the game is then released in HD on the 360. This way all the hardcore Nintendo fans get their game, and subsequently Nintendo and its shareholders get their profit. With this then, some Nintendo fans, who have had the game and have now enjoyed it for a while, may not be as compelled to get a 360 despite the obvious upgrades which in turn could be argued as some lost profits for Microsoft. However, even if they do decide to upgrade it wouldn't matter at that point as Nintendo would have already made its profits.

    Now sure with the Wii U coming out next month this whole idea is a little late to consider when trying to get the game on the Wii. However, if we shift focus to the Wii U there is HUGE potential for Nintendo here. First, let's be honest, the Wii U and its new controller could be fun if done right, but so far the launch lineup doesn't exactly leave me willing to do anything to get a console. Sure the HD graphics and all of that would be nice but there isn't too many games that make me want the console on day one. Yes, I will get one eventually, but on day one? Probably not.

    What could change that sentiment for me and others is if Nintendo considered my proposed deal above. Take the original game and release the HD version on the Wii U BUT do so with a 1 year exclusivity before it gets released on the 360 (or 720 if it is out by that time). This would do two things for Nintendo. One, it would give them the profit they want (which would make shareholders happy). Two, it would help them sell more consoles (again happy shareholders) and help drive their online platform where their launch lineup otherwise might not.

    The mere fact that the Goldeneye 007 (2010) remake was giving a one year exclusivity on the Wii proves that my idea is possible. If they did it for that game, they could do it for this game.

    1. Wow, that's a pretty long response! I'm impressed by the fact that you went through the trouble of digging up sales numbers to back up your argument, and I must say you made a very good point! Perhaps making it exclusive to the Wii U for a year would solve everything. I hope Nintendo is still considering a re-release of the original GoldenEye. Your suggestion is the best I've heard so far.

  3. Looks like Nintendo was being too tactical by pulling out of the brush-up at the last minute. Perhaps they'd rather focus on their flagship brands (yes, mario, that's you and good old 'weegee) to get more ROI in the long run?

    1. Who knows? Nintendo has never commented on the subject and I doubt we'll ever get a full explanation of what happened.

    2. Heck you all, money is not what gaming is about. Perfect dark is super awesome, and is better than goldeneye. Also online multiplayer isn't what i'm one cares about the business, it's about gaming. And Steve is a real moron for not realizing that. Steve, go check up the original goldeneye and see that goldeneye hd for the wii could had worked.

  4. I rather see Rare getting the rights as Activision suspended the Bond License (as rumor has it), so If they get that back, I would like to see their own versions of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. Not forget, I would like to get GoldenEye 007 for both systems (I do have a Wii and and XBox 360) if they ever came out with the remastered edtion That'll be great!

    1. There are rumors that Activision will not be making any more Bond games, but there hasn't been any official confirmation yet. If the rumors are true, I'm not sure who should get the license. Regardless of what happens, I'm still hoping that the HD version of GoldenEye 007 will be released someday. That would be awesome!

    2. Who's Weegee?

  5. I still remember playing on this game yet I still play on it today. You just can't beat the good old days.

    1. I still play this game too. Never gets old.

  6. Ok um....I got to be honest...Goldeneye for the Wii and reloaded suck!!!! It's so terrible. It's not the same game!!! What happened to the no hand weapon hold on the rifles and etc, what happened to the original map design? what happened to the guns!?!? It's not right! The new game today sucks. Worse of all, Daniel Craig is the Bond in the game. The weapons aren't even what I like (MP5 machine gun? P99??? Those aren't goldeneye weapons!). Plus, the cheats aren't there anymore. The remake is so terrible!

    1. You're talking about Goldeneye Reloaded which is a remake of the game, but here is the remastered Goldeneye Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 classic yes this is the father of the FPS.

  7. I really wanted this game, it's my childhood, I completed the n64 goldeneye on the 00 Agent difficulty, got everything even when I knew this XBLA version viquei crazy to play good old days but with this decision nintendo does not, they could at leave less exclusive to nintendo a while and share with the other consoles,RARE is not from nintendo.

  8. I was playing 007 goldeneye on my 64 right now (I'm 30 years old) and I said to myself "omg, I would totally buy whatever it is I must buy to play this exact game but with better graphics". so I went on a search, led me to many articles including this one, obviously. Steve made a great piece on the business aspect. I totally understand what he is saying! it's annoying to know that these business men are in the way of something epic for us gamers and fanatics of goldeneye. but it is what it is. hopefully one day I'll be alive to see that game come to light, but even then, it may be too late! I have no hopes for it. but looking at these HD pictures of the game made me feel a high sense of nostalgia! wishing that was me playing that version. don't know what else to say, just that it's sad that they had the product in hand, but Nintendo bailed out! I'm sure the ones that physically worked on the HD version have a copy of it for themselves to enjoy at home in secret! I'd sure love to be their friend! haha. ..

  9. I understand all of your opinions.
    However, we, as gamers should all be upset with Nintendo.
    Rare was kind enough to approach Nintendo about the HD remaster.
    Keep in mind, Rare still owns their original work (level design, etc).
    We also need to remember that Activision held (and still does) the rights to James Bond.
    So where does this leave Nintendo? They only published the original game. They did not design anything about the game and they have never held the license.
    So how is it that Nintendo blocked the release?
    Well, the answer is public and it should displease all of us.
    At the last minute, Nintendo decided to back away from the deal that was offered by Rare/Activision.
    This would mean that the game would only be released for the Xbox 360.
    That would be absolutely fine by my account (I own a 360).

    However, Nintendo wanted to do go further than simply backing out of the proposed deal.
    Nintendo wanted to ensure that nobody got this game.
    Nintendo actually threatened Activision to halt the release or suffer the consequences.
    What where these consequences? Nintendo advised Activision that they would no longer be allowed to make games for Nintendo consoles.
    Thus, Activision addressed this issue with Rare and told them that they had decided to cancel their mutual venture.

    How dastardly is that!?

    Then, to add insult to injury, Activision (not wanting to lose money on a potential Goldeneye game that would gather millions of dollars from the nostalgia crowd) and Nintendo announced their own Goldeneye project that would be unable to use Rare's acclaimed work and design...

    So Nintendo basically threw a little hissy fit and blackmailed Activision to get their way.
    Very tasteless and immature in my opinion.

    This is why I have an utter disdain for Nintendo.
    I refuse to support them, despite my love of Mario Kart.


    Now excuse me while I try beating Goldeneye 64 on 00 Agent (only 15 levels to go).

    1. Hi. First, I would like to say thanks for visiting. However, I take issue with some of your claims. Here are a few points.

      *Activision does not own the rights to James Bond. The company merely licensed the IP from the movie studios that own the franchise. Also, it appears they may no longer have the license as some of their 007 games have been removed from digital stores.

      *According to one of the articles I linked to, Nintendo and Rare share the rights to the N64 version of GoldenEye 007. If true, Activision would have needed their permission to release the HD version of the game.

      *I have never seen any sources that say Nintendo "threatened" Activision in any way. Given the fact that Activision agreed to make the new GoldenEye available exclusively on the Wii for a year, it seems doubtful that they were threatened or they wouldn't have agreed to a business decision that would have benefited Nintendo.

      I apologize if I sound defensive, but you have made a number of claims without providing evidence, and you have done so on a website that is viewed by a lot of people. Please provide some sources that back up your statements.

      Thanks again for visiting!

  10. all i can say is i gave up on nintendo after the N64 id always been a big nintendo fan until the gamecube, i eventually got a gamecube but was only interested in 3 games overall, id tried alot of others but rogue leader, mario party, mario kart, they where pretty much all i enjoyed, windwaker was boring to me, metroid just didnt cut it, then the wii came and i bought one really really cheap years after release just to test out some games i was given, i barely found one game i enjoyed enough to keep going back to, alot of them where great ideas mostly let down by the controls and fluidity of the gameplay, the goldeneye remakes was terrible in my opinon, mario kart was funny but samey, mario party was mostly "shake your controls in any way violently to complete the mini game" i mean one of them is "shake a can of pop until it bursts open" hardly innovative, nintendo lost their way and refused to try and compete with next gen consoles, they prefer to stay behind and offer a cheaper alternative, and i dont really like falling behind when great games and graphics are already available

    1. There was actually quite a few good games for the Gamecube, I never had any issues with the controls.


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