Universal Orlando Resort had a killer announcement just recently — they’re going to be adding a pile of Nintendo-themed attractions to the Universal series of parks. Now you can hit up Harry Potter, Despicable Me, and then head on over to high-five Mario and…and what?
Well, that’s kind of the rub, innit? Nintendo has been notoriously protective of its IP, with the infamous characters only rarely making appearances outside of strictly Nintendo-controlled events. The series of bombs that was the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, Captain N the Game Master, Kirby: Right Back Atcha, and F-Zero: GP Legend (yes, all of those did actually air in English at some point between 1990 and 2004) probably taught them a lesson they didn’t care to repeat.
But with Nintendo on the ropes in the console market due to stiff competition from the X-Box and PlayStation lines — and the console market itself on the ropes due to stiff competition from the Japanese ‘indie masters’ movement and the mobile gaming market in general — the game giant is seeing the writing on the wall. They’re going to have to exploit their characters, worlds, and memes in other ways, and to Nintendo fans — and in this case, fans of Universal Orlando, that means we win!
Universal has stated outright that they expect their Nintendo attractions to be “as popular, if not more, than the Harry Potter set.” They’ve also confirmed that, while Universal Orlando made the original announcement, this won’t be a one-park wonder: there will be Nintendo attractions at Universal Orlando, Universal Hollywood, Universal Singapore, and Universal Japan.
Characters and worlds that will definitely be making an appearance include Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Link, Zelda, Fox McCloud, and Kirby. There’s no say yet whether any of the bad guys other than Bowser (and Donkey Kong, who is both pro- and ant-agonist in different contexts) will make an appearance, but this poster for one hopes in earnest to see a few other villains — Ganondorf, for example, or Ridley — at the park.
Universal definitely understands the allure of the bad guys (everyone remembers Kongfrontation, right?) The only question that remains is whether Nintendo will get in the way, or get out of the way and let Universal do what Universal does best: build amazing experiences.