Nintendo is flexing its IP muscles outside of the video game world as it develops its top brands into cross-media franchises. With the opening of Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood and the theatrical release of The Super Mario Bros Movie, Nintendo seems finally poised to push its strongest video game franchises across the world in a Disney-like fashion.
The Super Mario Bros Movie, produced in partnership with Universal Pictures and animation studio Illumination, had a record-setting box office opening with $377 million globally. The total set domestic, international, and global box office records – including the biggest opening weekend for a video game adaptation (surpassing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 domestically and Warcraft globally) and toppling Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as the highest-grossing opening so far in 2023. As of this writing, the film has carried remarkable momentum through its second weekend as well.
It’s also likely just the beginning as Nintendo transforms into a cross-media powerhouse. Long protective of its intellectual property (this is the first on-screen outing for Mario and Luigi in 30 years), there has been a shift of opinion within the company. It is likely that Nintendo will tap into its deep library of intellectual property—and not just for the obvious Mario sequels and spin-offs, such as the long-rumored Donkey Kong standalone movie. Nintendo owns some of the oldest and most beloved franchises in video games, including The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, which can trace their roots back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System in the 1980s.
Even so, Nintendo is a little bit late to the party when it comes to bringing its video game properties to the world of film and television. Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog is already two movies in, with a third in development. Sony’s The Last Of Us (HBO Max) and Microsoft’s Halo (Paramount+) have completed successful first seasons and have each been renewed for a second season on their respective platforms. Major video game franchises from 2K Games (Borderlands), Electronic Arts (Mass Effect), and Microsoft’s Bethesda Studios (Fallout), among others, all have live-action adaptations coming to the big or small screen. Even Tetris found its way to streaming with a taut political thriller on Apple TV+.
But, as is typical for Nintendo, where others zig – pursuing live-action screen adaptations – Nintendo zags, focusing on animated content for its franchises. Nintendo may be on to something. Interpret’s VideoWatch data shows that Nintendo fans are more likely to watch and spend more time watching Family / Animated content than PlayStation fans or Xbox Fans. In fact, Animated / Family content is the third most watched type of content for Nintendo fans – trailing only Comedy and Drama.
Animation also allows Nintendo to both tap into nostalgia for older generations while simultaneously bringing in a new, younger audience, and being a perfect family film that had something for everyone. It helped The Super Mario Bros Movie become a true “four-quadrant” tentpole for Nintendo, drawing males and females of all ages. The success in its opening weekend all but guarantees more to come in the budding Nintendo Cinematic Universe.