Last week, one of the big news stories around the toy industry was Nintendo entering a deal with Universal Studios to create rides and other attractions for the latter’s theme parks. As reported on The Toy Book Blog, Nintendo’s most famous video game characters and worlds would serve as the inspiration for these soon-to-be immersive experiences. Imagine the possibilities: Kids, and adults, may soon interact with environments straight out of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda, or any of the video game maker’s other hit franchises.
From Universal’s perspective, this would seem like a sound strategy, if for no other reason than it’s already been done successfully. Create a family-friendly eco-system based on characters made popular in 2-D images? Disney‘s been doing that for decades. In fact, according to Disney’s second quarter earnings report issued last week, parks and resorts ranked as the second-highest revenue-generating part of its business, with revenues for the quarter at $3.8 billion.
On the other hand, if you’re Nintendo, this also must seem like a terrific idea, since it’s hard to imagine a better time for the video game-maker to capitalize on its intellectual properties. Currently, Nintendo occupies that sweet spot in which two consecutive generations have grown up with its stable of characters. Parents in their 30s know Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong, etc., from the 8-bit generation of consoles, while their young progeny have been introduced to the characters through the newer Wii and Nintendo DS systems.
Nintendo is also recognized as being family-friendly, making it a natural fit for the theme park/resort industry, which now more than ever, seems to be turning toward well-known toy and game brands. Tomorrow marks the opening of the Legoland Hotel in Orlando, created by Legoland in collaboration with the Merlin Entertainments Group. It features rooms themed after the Lego Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, and Lego Friends lines, and is part of the Legoland Florida Resort, a 150-acre environment featuring all manner of immersive, Lego-themed experiences. There are also Leg0-themed adventures out at sea through MSC Cruises and The LEGO Group.
Of late, the line between toys and other forms of entertainment has become increasingly blurred with toy brand-based films (Battleship, Oujia) and streaming video (the upcoming Popples, Care Bears), so why not theme parks and resorts, too? Admittedly, they aren’t my first choice for a summer excursion, but I spend the rest of my year covering the toy industry, so I may be biased. Truthfully, in the case of family vacations, one assumes that children play a role in the decision-making, and from my own memories of being a tyke, I can say with utmost confidence that I would have jumped up and down at the chance to visit a Lego-centric–or a Nintendo-centric–theme park.
Meanwhile, the use of IP with the kind longevity that a Lego and Nintendo has means parents might actually want to go to these resorts, too. So even if the experiences, rides, etc., are aimed at kids ages 2 to 12, as is the case with the Legoland Florida Resort, parents won’t stand around befuddled. No more befuddled than parents normally are, anyway.
For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!