What's the biggest entertainment franchise in the world? Is it Star Wars? Harry Potter? Marvel? While those are top three IPs from movies, all are dwarfed by a franchise from another segment of the entertainment industry.
So who is the King of IP? It'sa Mario.
Nintendo's Mario franchise has earned more than $30 billion dollars worldwide, according to industry estimates, about a third more than the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more than three times the box office haul from both Star Wars and Harry Potter. Boys and girls, women and men, people from nations all over the world play Mario on their TVs, computers, tablets, and other devices. Mario — and its entire Nintendo family — enjoy a cross-demographic and cross-cultural appeal that could best be described as truly (please, God, forgive me this one)... Universal.
But just because a franchise wins in video games does not guarantee its success in other entertainment media. Just ask the movie studios that have watched so many game-based IPs disappoint at the box office. Interactive media such as video games just don't translate well to more passively consumed media, such as film.
Of course, there's another popular entertainment medium out there that does support interactivity — one where people can play with their favorite video game franchises, but in an environment that feels much more real than they can ever experience in front of a screen, even one mounted in front of their face as VR.
So what happens when the world's top video game IP gets reimagined as an interactive theme park experience? We are about to find out.
Opening this summer at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, Super Nintendo World will give fans the opportunity to step into a real-life Mario Kart race. They can play Nintendo in a three-dimensional, practical environment, tracking their scores and connecting their theme park experience with their online play. With Super Nintendo World, Universal — which eventually will bring the land to its parks in Hollywood, Orlando, and Singapore, too — has an opportunity to redefine how an entertainment franchise exists across media, amplifying Nintendo and Mario from beloved video game IP into even more engaging lifestyle brands.
Earlier this month, I called Disney's new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance the world's best theme park ride. Blending multiple ride experiences and settings with an engaging story and nonstop action, Rise of the Resistance raised the bar for new theme park attractions worldwide. But Universal's new Mario Kart ride looks ready to challenge Rise of the Resistance with its attempt to create a practical version of the world's most popular entertainment experience.
Will Universal beat Disney with this? I truly have no idea. But I cannot wait to see its effort.
Ultimately, what Universal does with Mario in no way affects what Disney accomplished with Rise of the Resistance. Theme parks are not sports, with its winners and losers. A "win" for Universal here is not a loss for Disney. It would be just another great experience for theme park fans. But corporate ego is a thing. And I love it when Disney and Universal try to out-do each other, because that results in a fresh supply of great new attractions for theme park fans.
I have been going to theme parks for decades. I have been writing about theme parks now for more than 20 years. I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit parks all over the world. So it is with that perspective that I say... this is the golden age. The opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010 opened a new era in themed entertainment design, in which companies saw again the payoff from investing in the highest available quality for their attractions.
Ten years later, the industry could be facing another defining moment, one that will show fans whether the industry's development over this past decade has reached a trim brake... or another launch — one that will accelerate theme parks and their attractions to new heights of quality and engagement.
I never have been more excited by theme parks than I am right now. And that's why Super Nintendo World tops my list of the most anticipated theme park attractions in 2020.
Previously on "All aboard the 2020 Hype Train":
Now that I have finished this series, I am wishing that I had expanded it to 12 so that I could have included the upcoming Lego Factory Adventure dark ride at the new Legoland New York, and the Drawn to Life Cirque du Soleil show at Disney Springs, both of which deserved to be on this list. And there are plenty of other great new attractions coming in 2020, too — rides worth planning a trip to visit, including Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Pantheon, Cedar Point's Celebrate 150 Spectacular parade and Snake River Expedition, Epcot's Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, Hersheypark's Candymonium, Kings Island's Orion, Legoland California's The Lego Movie World, Six Flags Great Adventure's Jersey Devil Coaster, as well as SeaWorld Orlando's Ice Breaker, San Antonio's Texas Stingray and San Diego's Emperor.
It's going to be a great year for theme park fans.Tweet
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