Super Mario is coming to theme parks

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By 2020, Universal Studios theme parks will welcome a new resident: Super Mario.

Universal announced it will introduce the attraction Super Nintendo World to Universal Studios Japan in 2020, in time for the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The attraction will feature rides, interactive areas and shops based on Nintendo’s roster of characters including Mario and Donkey Kong.

Nintendo and Universal have already collaborated on similar plans for theme parks in Hollywood and Orlando, but neither park has confirmed when those Mario attractions will make their debuts.

Universal Studios Japan says development costs for the Nintendo attraction are expected to reach more than $434 million, but claims the addition will add 1.1 million jobs in Japan and bring economic benefits of more than $100 billion within a decade after opening.

Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, who helped create the company’s signature franchises including Super Mario Bros., is working with Universal Creative president Mark Woodbury on the design of the parks.

Nintendo’s theme park plans are part of a larger effort to diversify its revenue options beyond the business of dedicated video game hardware. This week, Nintendo will launch its first smartphone game — Super Mario Run — for iOS devices, after years of dragging its feet on a move to the surging mobile market.

The video game giant’s home console business has struggled since the shift from the incredibly popular Nintendo Wii to the Wii U, which launched in 2012.

Featuring a tablet controller mixing traditional home console controls with touchscreen support, the Wii U never caught on with consumers. To date, Nintendo has sold more than 13 million Wii U consoles worldwide. By comparison, Sony’s PlayStation 4 topped 50 million in sales despite launching one year later than Wii U.

In October, Nintendo unveiled the Switch, a tablet-like device players attach to a dock connected to their television. The design gives players the option of playing at home or taking games on the go.

Nintendo is hosting an online presentation next month, where executives will likely reveal details on Switch’s pricing and launch date.

An early bright spot for Switch is the strong support from third-party publishers, which Nintendo lacked for the Wii U. Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are among publishers working on games for Switch.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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