When it was announced a few years ago that Universal would be integrating Nintendo franchises into their parks, my mind went wild with the possibilities on what they would do. Now that the plans have been mostly reveled and construction underway in Universal Studios Japan, it’s time to compare apples and oranges with another big Universal Parks brand, Harry Potter. The original big IP that was brought in and completely changed not only Universal’s theme park direction, but the industry as a whole. You cannot deny how much of an impact a teenage wizard did for theme parks and how immersive you can design and create lands. With that being said, I believe that Super Nintendo World will do what Harry Potter did, but better.
There is no denying that when the Wizarding World opened in 2010, it was a true game changer for theme parks as a whole. The idea of a themed land or area devoted to a whole IP is nothing new as the idea had been around since Disneyland first opened. But Wizarding World did something a little different. It did this by recreating entire locations and places for people to go, creating costumes and immersive language that is unparalleled to this day. It did such a great job, that attendance for Islands of Adventure jumped by around 30% from prior year. Considering the land was only open for around 4 months, those are numbers that no other theme park has ever been able to top. It also opened at the true pinnacle of the Harry Potter craze. The first of the Deathly Hallows movies was going to release later that year, so people were wanting more Potter. It was a perfect storm that Universal is still riding to this day, opening a second location in 2014 at Universal Studios themed to Diagon Alley and Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventures replacing Dragon Challenge in 2019. The Wizarding World set forth a trend that took Disney years to be able to come close to, with Pandora in 2017 and Galaxy’s Edge in 2019.
But this is about the next step, Super Nintendo World. So even with all that Harry did, what makes me think that Mario can do him one better? There are a lot of things, including business trends and even Universal’s marketing team playing a part in it. But the biggest reason is the Italian plumber himself. Mario has been around since 1981 in the original Donkey Kong arcade game and has since become the icon of not just his company, but the entire business. Most people who have never even played a video game at least know who Mario is. The brand recognition is comparable to Mickey Mouse. No discredit to Harry Potter, as he is one of the most famous literature and film characters. But he is not the face of an industry.
The designs of the two I think will also play into this. Wizarding World is highly detailed, intricate and every time I go in there, I always see a new detail. But Super Nintendo World is going to stand out just by its color pallet alone. Unlike some of the more recent immersive land experiences, the colors of Super Nintendo World is going for a brighter cartoony look rather than earth tones. This not only fits the look and style of characters like Mario and Donkey Kong better, but allows for it to stand out when walking through the park. The brighter colors will catch your eye, and people are naturally drawn to brighter and shinier things.
Another reason potentially why this could happen is the general interest in both properties. Harry Potter has been in the public eye, and still a big name. But with the lukewarm reception to Cursed Child and cold one for the latest Fantastic Beasts movie, one could assume that interest in Harry Potter is no where near as big as it was ten years ago. On the flip side, the Nintendo Switch has been selling better than any other video game console in the last 3 years. Couple this with game sales figures, nearly every single person who owns a Switch owns either Super Mario Odyssey or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Mario is more in the forefront of the consumer’s minds than Harry Potter at the moment. So Universal might be more willing to strike while the iron is hot, and send Mario to the moon. And speaking of that…
Probably the biggest reason why Super Nintendo World is going to do better than Potter is because Universal themselves are going to push for it. Harry Potter is a license from Warner Brothers, which is not owned by Comcast (Universal’s Parent Company). And while Nintendo also isn’t owned by Comcast, Illumination is. The same company who is currently in production of a Mario movie. Which if it does well, could lead to future movies using Nintendo properties to increase their bottom line. Comcast being a large company wants to increase their profits, and promoting another film studio’s franchise may not be the best way to do that.
Both Wizarding World and Super Nintendo Lands are still going to be without a doubt Universals’s most heavily invested in areas in all of their theme parks. But Wizarding World I think will be taking a backseat as Universal’s poster child to Super Nintendo Land. I don’t think they will stop investing in it though, as it is still their cash cow and will continue to draw in a lot of people. But Super Nintendo World is a newer property and one people have been wanting for a long time. Harry walked so Mario could run and jump to the top of the flag pole.