The current trend in digital entertainment is for everything to go online, and never has that statement been more true than it is here in 2020. The coming of the all-digital era has been almost enforced on us this year because we haven’t been able to go outside, and streaming is rapidly becoming the default choice for a variety of media platforms. If you want to watch a movie, you’re a lot more likely to stream it through a service like Netflix than you are to go to an actual movie theater – if you can even find one that’s open. If you want to play a video game, you’re more likely to stream it or download it than you are to go to a store and buy a physical product in a box.
Whole industries that used to be all-physical are slowly becoming all-virtual. The cinemas that are closing now may never re-open – even before the carnage that 2020 has brought, streaming services are rapidly overtaking them. Online slots websites are making life increasingly difficult for casinos. You might not be able to order a steak dinner at an online slots website, but you’re likely to get a far more comprehensive range of online slots and other casino games to play on the internet than you are in the flesh. If online slots websites like DoveCasino.com can one day replace casinos completely, video game streaming is probably likely to one day replace buying consoles and physical games. Apparently, Nintendo hasn’t got that memo. Their agenda for 2021 is going to see them take on Disney in the realm of theme parks.
While you might not have heard of the forthcoming “Super Nintendo World,” if 2020 had gone to plan, there would be people enjoying the rides there already. The park’s original opening date would have seen it up and running in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As we all now know, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics didn’t happen this year, and might not happen next year either. This time, the opening of the park won’t be contingent on Japan hosting the Olympics. It will open in Spring 2021 in Osaka, Japan, and it will welcome visitors whether there’s a major sporting event happening in the country or not.
The news of the park getting an opening date, which was made public earlier in the week, suggests that more construction work has been carried out at the Osaka site than most people imagined. At the time of writing, very little is known about any of the rides or other entertainment that will be available to visitors. Mario and Luigi are both believed to have their own character-inspired rides, and there’s also a ride based on the classic “Mario Kart” game. Some insiders close to the project have said that the entire park is based on the concept of visitors existing within a video game, with ‘power-ups’ available at various points and ‘coins’ to collect as people move around the park. The progress that’s been made on the project must have been rapid if it’s to meet its spring 2021 launch date – its existence was only announced at the beginning of 2020 with a special video presentation that featured musician Charli XCX.
Nintendo’s decision to take the bold step of creating a theme park comes off the back of several years of falling revenue within its video gaming business, with fewer people owning Nintendo consoles now than at any point in the past thirty years. Its fortunes have been improved slightly by a sudden and unexpected demand for Nintendo Switch consoles, but concerns about the potential future of the company have led to diversification and new ideas being invested in. The park is one prong of this attack. Another route the company has gone down has seen classic Nintendo characters licensed to movie and television production studios. There’s a new Netflix television series based on “Zelda” currently in production, along with a new “Super Mario Brothers” film that’s slated to be released in 2022.
If the park is successful in Japan, it should lead to the opening of additional “Super Nintendo World” parks elsewhere in the world. There’s already one planned for Hollywood, which is arguably the entertainment capital of the world. Rather than being a standalone park, the US-based Nintendo park will become part of Universal Studios. That attraction is also scheduled to be opened at some point in 2021, although details about the progress of construction and preparation work there are thinner on the ground than they are when it comes to the Osaka Park. Looking further down the line, there’s also scheduled to be a “Super Nintendo World” attraction opening in Orlando, Florida – the world’s theme park capital – at some point in 2023. Universal Studios in Singapore is also thought to have been targeted as a potential location, although those plans are not yet finalized.
There’s a lot of ground to cover before any parks outside of Japan open, though, and no guarantee of success. Even if the Osaka park opens on time, it will likely be relying on Japanese visitors alone for its first few months of operation. At the time of writing, 159 countries were banned from operating flights to Japan due to pandemic restrictions, including the United States of America and the United Kingdom. That might make it harder to turn a profit at the park than it would have been under normal circumstances. Even if the company is able to clear that hurdle, by opening in Orlando, they’re placing themselves in direct competition with Disney. Their partnership with Universal Studios might be crucial to their success in this endeavor. Universal is the only company that’s ever opened a theme park anywhere near a Disney park and survived.
The history of creating real-world attractions based on video games is hit and miss, but video game culture and real-world culture are more closely linked than ever before thanks to the advent of Comic-Con events and streaming channels on Twitch and YouTube, which have turned gaming into a popular field of broadcasting. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people can be persuaded to spend money to visit a park full of characters made by just one company, but if any company can do it, it’s one with a history as long and storied as Disney. By this time next year, we’ll know if they made a smart move or not.