Universal parks chief on Super Nintendo World: ‘The whole land is interactive’ 

The head of the Universal parks division within Comcast revealed some new details about Super Nintendo World in Japan and the new theme park being built in Orlando. 

Tom Williams, CEO and chairman of Universal Parks & Resorts, was interviewed Wednesday at Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2019 Media, Communications, and Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles. When asked about priorities over the next three to five years, he named three: Universal Studios Beijing (set to open in 2021), the first Super Nintendo World (opening at Universal Studios Japan next year), and the newly-announced Epic Universe, the third Universal theme park in Orlando. 

Nintendo is expected to be among the intellectual properties for the new park, which will be built on a 750-acre parcel of land the company has pieced together in recent years near the Orange County Convention Center.

For now, it seems Universal is content to let fans speculate about what’s going into Epic Universe.

“We haven’t announced the content in terms of the IP or even timing because it’s senseless to do so,” Williams said. “Why tell the competition what you are doing? And beyond that, why risk deferring attendance. That makes no sense. So we are hard at work. We have done our demand modeling. We have done our research. We have fully planned the park. We are beginning to work on it now with masquerading and so forth, preparing the land, installing infrastructure.” 

Williams repeated what Universal fans have heard for years since the Nintendo deal was first announced: Super Nintendo World will be coming to other Universal parks. He did not give a timeline on when that will happen, though the Universal Hollywood version of the land is already under construction. 

When it opens in Japan next spring, Williams said it will feature a Mario Kart attraction and a Yoshi’s Adventure ride. The land will be built on three levels and include Princess Peach’s castle. Beyond the physical infrastructure, Williams said the land will have a “score keeping capability” within the rides that “interfaces back with your game console.”

“The whole land is interactive and you are going to have a wristband that’s got the big red Mario symbol on it,” he said.”By the way, the wristband is super cool. It’s all magnetic. You slap it at your wrist and it just snaps on and it won’t come off.”

Williams touched on a number of other topics during the interview:

  • On the response to Universal’s Endless Summer Resort: “The standard room is $85. Now there are a lot of hotels, motels or hotels up and down International Drive, which is the tourism drive right there in Orlando that they are $200, $300 room properties and people aren’t going to stay there when they can stay at Universal and get early park admission and get transportation to the park and have character breakfasts and all the theming and everything. So it really is, I mean we just opened it in summer, we are on a 94% occupancy. It’s crazy.” 
  • On how many hotel rooms Universal will have in the next five years: “At least 11,000. A couple thousand more than the 9,000 we have already announced.”
  • On Universal’s ticket pricing structure vs. Disney: “One of the things that really is very much on our minds now is to not make it to doggone complicated. The competition’s got nine different tiers for when they are ticketing. It’s complicated. And then when you start throwing in multi-day and add-ons and so forth, it can be a frustrating experience and pretty soon, you say, who needs this.”
  • On future international expansion for Universal: “I think Asia would be the logical place to look for expansion first. It would not be South America. It would not be North America. And highly unlikely any place in Europe.”
  • On if Universal considers smaller parks competition: “No. It is a big difference. I think everybody understands between a destination park and a regional park. Six Flags will be a regional park, Cedar Fair and so forth. SeaWorld is not quite the player that they used to be ever since ‘Blackfish.’” 
  • On how long it takes to develop a new theme park: “It’s at least a five, six year process. Because you know, in our business, the way we do attractions, the vendor community that can support what we want to do is pretty thin. So it’s not like you can go to a tradeshow and buy a ride and say, yes, I will take that ride. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to design these from the ground up.”

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