Nintendo is having an unusual year

Mario Kart screenshot
A screenshot of ‘Mario Kart 8’ on the Wii U. CheatCC

Nintendo is teaming up with Universal Parks & Resorts to bring much loved video game characters like Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong to Universal’s theme parks.

There’s no official mention yet of what kind of amusements we can expect at Universal’s theme parks, but the Nintendo fan in many of us would be pretty disappointed if “Mario Kart,” one of Nintendo’s biggest hits, wasn’t turned into a real-life ride.

Universal executive Tom Schroder said in a press release that “The immersive experiences will include major attractions at Universal’s theme parks and will feature Nintendo’s most famous characters and games.”

Nintendo’s creations have been an integral part of childhoods since the 1983 release of Nintendo’s Entertainment System console in Japan (1985 in the US), and the company’s iconic worlds and characters have achieved pop culture hegemony.

Real mario kart 1
Some folks have already created their own versions of real-life ‘Mario Kart’ Waterloo Labs / YouTube

Yet, the company has experienced difficulties competing with gaming rivals, like Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox, in the last four years. Revenue and console market shares were generally on a steady decline year after year since 2010.

But 2015 appears to be the year that Nintendo rights itself: CEO Satoru Iwata announced a partnership earlier this year with Japanese game developers DeNA to develop new games for mobile platforms. Nintendo had previously shunned the idea.

Both moves are part of Nintendo’s efforts to expand its intellectual property to its full potential and boost its exposure to gain new customers.

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Watch out for that Chain Chomp! WaterlooLabs / YouTube

Historically, Nintendo has been staunchly protective over its intellectual property (IP) to maintain the brand’s hardware, software, character and titles’ image. It’s had a limiting effect on its exposure to potential customers who have come to expect more from gaming entertainment sources, like Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox.

Still, Nintendo is being selective with whom it chooses to share its IP, as CEO Satoro Iwata claimed that the company has considered becoming part of the theme park business for some time, but only if it could find the right partner. As long as we can start experiencing Nintendo’s world outside the confines of game consoles, that’s fine with us.

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