Universal Studios Hollywood is opening the first Nintendo-themed park outside of Japan

Universal Studios Hollywood is opening the first Nintendo-themed park outside of Japan

Super Nintendo World, the first US-based theme park celebrating the Japanese video game company, is due to open in Los Angeles on Friday (Feb. 17).

The venue includes a Mario Kart-themed roller coaster and an interactive Mushroom Kingdom, as well as a large shopping and dining area, accessible through a massive Super Mario-themed green pipe. This marks the first major expansion of the Universal Studios Hollywood park since 2016, when it debuted the Wizarding World of Harry Potteran interactive Hogwarts experience.

Nintendo entered a commercial partnership with Comcast-owned Universal Parks & Resorts in 2015, after a decline in video game sales spurred by the failure of the Wii U console. The move aimed to monetize the world-famous Japanese brand off the video game console screen. Super Nintendo World in Osaka, Japanwas the first video game-themed park opened by Universal before the one in Hollywood.

The Osaka venue, which opened in 2021 and features similar rides as well as a life-size replica of Bowser’s castle, has so far proved a success. In the aftermath of covid-19 closures, media companies like Disneyand Comcast are investing heavily in mega-profitable theme parks to offset the upfront costs of video streaming and dwindling cable subscribers. Universal is also planning to add a Super Nintendo World to its Orlando, Florida, location, by 2025.

Comcast’s Universal theme park business, by the numbers

$7.5 billion: Revenue for Comcast Universal’s theme park division in the 2022 fiscal year, which includes Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, as well as the Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan.

49.3%: Year-on-year revenue boost for the Comcast theme park division in 2022, increasingly one of Comcast’s most successful financial ventures. The sharp rise is also indicative of loosened covid-19 restrictions in the US and Japan.

1.9 million: Number of cable subscribers Comcast lost in 2022. Additionally, Comcast expects Peacock, its streaming service, to accumulate $3 billion in losses before becoming profitable, demonstrating why the company is looking for alternative revenue streams like theme parks.

The Super Mario Brothers hit the big screen

In Super Mario Bros. Movieone of 2023’s most anticipated blockbusterseveryone’s favorite plumber will defend Princess Peach’s castle from the evil Bowser reptile in an age-old battle between good and evil. The traditional Super Mario storyline will get the full Hollywood treatment, featuring the likes of Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Jack Black.

The trailer has been given a tepid reception mainly due to Pratt’s ill-advised attempt at an Italian accent. The movie is a big investment for Nintendo and Universal, with an estimated budget of about $80 million. The studio hopes to avoid the fate of another Super Mario Bros. movie, the 1993 live-action adaptation featuring John Leguizamo as the titular hero. The movie flopped, posting a loss of approximately $10 million at the box office.

Super Mario Bros. Movie’s marketing campaign is pulling all the stops, including a Super Bowl ad playing on 1980s nostalgiacomplete with a working phone number for the made-up, Brooklyn-based plumbing company.

Is augmented reality the future of theme parks?

The projection of artificial graphics into the real world, known as augmented reality, has become a cornerstone of theme parks in the US and around the world. At the newly-built Super Nintendo World, Universal Studios advertises wristbands and interactive binoculars that allow guests to collect digital coins, battle virtual characters, and immerse themselves in the world of Mario and other Nintendo characters.

While not as frequently discussed as virtual reality, augmented reality is already a staple of our digital world, with ubiquitous filter technology across Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms. Snapchat recently announced it had more than 300,000 developers building augmented reality products for its platform, adding they have already built more than 3 million filters that have been used 5 trillion times.

The next logical step in augmented reality is wearables, like the interactive binoculars that will be offered at the Nintendo theme park. While the Google Glass was famously a flop, Microsoft, Metaand Apple have all invested heavily in “mixed-reality” headsets, while the US army is trying to incorporate Microsoft’s technology into their soldier’s technical arsenal. The augmented reality innovations on display at Super Nintendo World offer a sneak peek into the future of entertainment, in theme parks and beyond.

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