Universal to open first Nintendo-centric theme park by 2020

Mario's going to the Tokyo Olympics.

Universal Studios and Nintendo announced that Super Nintendo World, a specialized area of the theme park, will open at Universal Studios Japan in time for the 2020 Games. The companies plan to spend more than 50 billion yen ($434 million) to develop and create the rides and attractions. That puts it on the same scale as the park's successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Nintendo announced last week that themed areas will also be added to the parks in Orlando and Hollywood, but no date has been specified for those.

The Nintendo-themed area of the Osaka-based park will include rides, interactive areas, shops and restaurants built around and featuring familiar Nintendo characters and games. Nintendo's creative mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto is working alongside Universal to help create experiences that are immersive and true to the characters.

The price tag for the park is 10 billion yen more than Universal initially said it planned to spend on the project, which could reflect increased interest by officials or an expansion in what they expect to include in the area.

Either way, the well-known and family-friendly Nintendo characters could be a strong draw for Universal, which has recently been competing more aggressively with Disney's theme park operations. Disney operates a theme park in Tokyo, roughly four hours away from Osaka.

Nintendo's not the only video game company with theme park plans, though. Ubisoft last year announced plans for a similar standalone park in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That 10,000-square-meter "next generation" park is also expected to open in 2020.

"Together we are creating a place where every guest is a player, every ride is a playground, every visit is a game," said Jean de Rivieres, senior vice president, Ubisoft Motion Pictures, when the park was announced last September.

While Nintendo and Universal have not yet given details on any rides or attractions in Super Nintendo World, a conceptual rendering of the park might offer a few hints. Mario and his brother Luigi are prominently featured, naturally. The iconic castles from Princess Peach and Bowser from the Mario games are also prominent, as are a mushroom building and what appears to be a multistory warp pipe — again, from the Super Mario franchise.

Stylized worlds within its theme parks have so far been a big draw for Universal. A study of foot traffic data from the Foursquare app showed a 38 percent increase in visits to the park when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Hollywood earlier this year. And the July 4 opening of a "Walking Dead" attraction at that same park resulted in an initial five-fold increase in traffic.

Theme parks, such as Universal, generally do not release attendance numbers for individual parks or areas.

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