If you missed my analysis of some of Nintendo’s top properties, you can check it out here. This time, let’s take a look at some of Nintendo’s “B-list” properties to see if there’s anything we can expect to see at Universal Studios in the next few years:
Image courtesy of Nintendo
Yoshi (Yoshi’s Island)
Like Donkey Kong, Yoshi and his ilk belong under the larger “umbrella” of the Mario Bros. universe. However, Nintendo also considers him a distinct franchise unto himself, evidenced by solo entries Yoshi’s Story, Yoshi’s Island, and the forthcoming Yoshi’s Wooly World. The games are bright, adorable, and brimming with charm – plus, who wouldn’t want to ride a Yoshi in some capacity?
A Yoshi attraction isn’t a sure thing as you might expect despite these qualities, though. Yoshi does move units, having sold approximately 20 million copies over the years, but he’s the #12 franchise in Nintendo’s lineup. (One should note that there are significantly fewer Yoshi-centric games to date compared to other major Nintendo stars.) That said, Yoshi is still a priority for Nintendo – his new game releases for the Wii U this fall, he’s a staple in Mario franchise titles, and has wide audience recognition.
We probably won’t get a full-on Yoshi’s Island mini area, but a water feature play area along the lines of Fievel’s Playland isn’t out of the question – or better yet, a Yoshi Fruit Stand. Even if Yoshi doesn’t get a dedicated presence of some sort, he’ll almost certainly appear in the inevitable Mario-based attraction.
Image Courtesy of Nintendo
When the Nintendo partnership was first announced, many a video game fan salivated at the possibility of joining legendary bounty hunter Samus Aran on a deep space adventure. I hate to take the wind out of their sails, but the evidence suggests we won’t be taking on Space Pirates or Ridley any time soon.
Despite being a venerable Nintendo icon in the eyes of gamers, Metroid is actually of the company’s lower performing major franchises. Metroid comes in even below Yoshi, with approximately 17.44 million sales to date. Furthermore, Metroid hasn’t had a truly successful title since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, released way back in 2007. The series has seen only one entry since then, the much maligned and low-selling Metroid: Other M in 2010.
Aside from her token appearance in the Super Smash. Bros series, Samus has been largely dormant since then. The only Metroid game on the horizon is Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a low-budget 3DS title that wasn’t even originally a Metroid title – and won’t feature Samus at all. In fact, series fans have derided the game since its announcement, and there’s even a petition calling for its cancelation (yikes!)
There are certainly plenty of ways a Metroid attraction could work: one could envision a traditional motion simulator on Samus’s ship, or even a more advanced Spider-Man or Gringotts style adventure exploring one of the world’s many exotic planets. But the creatures there are almost all hostile and unpleasant, and Samus herself doesn’t have the wide appeal that kinder characters like Mario or even Link enjoy. Beyond a few action figures and adult-targeted plush, there aren’t many obvious merchandising opportunities. Ditto on any food and beverage choices.
The Metroid games are largely excellent, but it’s a cult series, at best, and Nintendo’s top brass seem entirely disinterested in the property for now.
Image Courtesy of Nintendo
Star Fox (Lylatt System)
Another one of Nintendo’s sci-fi properties, Star Fox is probably most known for its infamous “do a barrel roll!” quip early on in the beloved Nintendo 64 iteration… and that’s a problem. Star Fox does manage to crack the Top 15 Nintendo franchises, but it’s a series largely ignored outside of the “core” gaming population. And even then, the most successful recent entry of Star Fox was a 3D repackaging of Star Fox 64.
Like Metroid, there are certainly cool ways to pull off a Star Fox ride, either via an indoor roller coaster or (sigh) another motion simulator. It certainly would be cool to “do a barrel roll” in the flesh. And Nintendo is prepping a new entry in the series on Wii U that might put Fox, Falco and Slippy Toad back on the general public’s radar. But as of now, the franchise lacks any real legs, and beyond that, not a lot of merchandising or food potential.
Image Courtesy of Nintendo
It’s easy to underestimate Kirby in the Nintendo crowded field of characters: he’s “just another cute blob.” However, the Kirby franchise has moved an impressive 35.78 million units to date, good for Nintendo’s #7 franchise. Moreover, he has immense appeal overseas, specifically in the character’s native Japan. This is likely due to the combination of the character’s enduring adorability along with the series’ trademark over-the-top action.
Like Mario, Nintendo is confident enough in Kirby’s brand to use him to test drive games outside of his usual platforming genre: over the years, Kirby has headlined golf, pinball, racing, and baseball titles. Kirby also enjoys no shortage of new releases: in the past five years alone, we’ve seen Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Mass Attack, Return to Dreamland, Dream Collection, Triple Deluxe, and Rainbow Curse, in addition to numerous Virtual Console rereleases.
Universal’s recent announcement of Hello Kitty is also telling: the cartoon cat has a following in the United States, but the big sell is for international visitors attracted to the cute factor. Like Kirby, Hello Kitty is an even bigger draw in Japan and other territories: if it works for Kitty, why not Kirby?
Dreamland, in all its accessible cuteness, is an easy environment to adapt to a theme park, and between warp stars, legions of adorable plush, and sugary sweets galore, there’s no shortage of merchandising, food and beverage opportunities. Attraction-wise, it’s harder to envision something on a larger scale – a warp star race would be plausible if not for the likely inclusion of Mario Kart – but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Kirby doesn’t have some sort of significant presence.
Do you think my predictions are on the mark? What other Nintendo franchises do you think may have a shot? Let me know in the comments!
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