Here is my thinking:
Until this year, USO had good rides, but was a definite second-tier park to IOA, especially after WWOHP came in. Now they are making every effort, and quickly, to bring it up to IOA's level, and they are succeeding. When Diagon Alley opens, it is my guess that Universal will sharply raise prices on 2-day tickets and put all the value into a 3-day ticket, expecting that vacationers may spend an entire day on Harry Potter ALONE (between both parks). It's a safe bet, as it is very appealing to imagine having an entire full day without leaving one themed world. They would then have to add enough goodies at USO for another full day of exploring. And they are doing that, between Despicable Me, Transformers, Springfield, the new kid's area, updated Kong, etc.
So, that's already a shrewd investment plan. Suddenly you are selling 3-day park-hoppers instead of 2-day base tickets.
What if they add a 3rd park, perhaps one with a strong family focus and rides for younger kids? Now they've got an experience that rivals Disney in every way, and beats them in several areas.
I've taken a couple of weekend getaways to Universal in the last couple of years, not setting foot on Disney property, but a big vacation in January will be strongly Disney-focused, because there are small kids in the mix and days to fill. But if Universal had a 3rd park, and all of the on-site benefits still applied, I would gladly spend a week there, and visit MK and EPCOT as away trips, flipping the regular formula on its head.
Could Universal be making a grab for Orlando theme park domination?
First off, Disney World attendance in 2012 was around 38M people while Universal was around 14M. Universal is running about 40% of the attendance Disney is. So you have to consider that a large percentage of people going to Disney are first and foremost Disney fans and second fans of Disney World as a result. So no matter what Universal does, there will be people that may never be interested in "flipping the script". So while it may flip for people that are more Universal fans or interested in the types of theme parks they offer over Disney, at some point Universal will have tapped that as much as they can and need to look at bringing in new customers that may not yet have a loyalty.
I see a lot of people argue Disney versus Universal on the merit of parks alone but people seem to not consider the Disney brand and brand loyalty as a factor. Universal has been putting out some great family and kid's movies recently but that still does not compare to the last 80 years of Disney movies and animation. It's a legacy that has impacted generation after generation. That subconscious impact is hard to measure but the impact of Universal's latest park addition will be definitely lessened by it.
Or maybe they've already done that.
As I understand, Universal thought they could compete on equal footing with Disney when USO first opened. Obviously that hasn't happened yet, but give it time. Think of Apple and Microsoft 10 years ago. Everyone said that no matter how good Apple was, Microsoft would always have the edge. Eventually the truth catches up. Hopefully Disney executes well with great new projects of their own (and btw, I'm one of the rare people who thinks that the Fantasyland expansion was a very good response to WWOHP, because they upped their magic quotient too), we get to be the winners (except for the cost of tickets, which will go through the roof).
I will mention it in the survey they just sent me to rate our stay. There is a section where you can say whatever you like about the resort.
Based on what has already been paid for and what hasn’t, some of this might fall into the acceleration and some may not.
Universal Studios Florida
Simpsonland – Paid For – Open or almost open
Harry Potter 2.0 – Paid For
Smurfs in kiddieland – rumor
Kong in Disaster – rumor
Islands of Adventure
Jurassic Park games area – paid for
Replacement for Toon Lagoon (LotR?)- rumor
Replacement for Marvel Superhero Land – rumor
Harry Potter expansion to Seuss Landing - rumor
Wet ‘n’ Wild purchase plus extra land – paid for
Rethemed to Universal Brand?
Third theme park on this plot of land?
Universal Studios Hollywood
Despicable Me and Super Silly Fun Land – paid for / soon to be paid for
Rumor of some other attraction to open between DM and HP. Maybe Simpsonland? Maybe something more substantial.
Harry Potter – confirmed
Reconfiguring the Tram load area (part of Potter build).
Reconfiguring the park entrance?
Universal Studios Japan
Harry Potter – the beginnings of construction have started.
Universal Studios Singapore
This studio wants Harry Potter, but there is no logical place to put it without taking something else out, which is a really hard call for a fairly new park.
Universal Studios Dubai
There are good rumors that this project is back on track
So based on this list of pending items, I could completely see how they can claim that they are doing a spending acceleration with only a few surprises on the above list.
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Hollywood