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The search for the next great theme park IP – part 2

Finding a hit IP (Intellectual Property) can boost attendance and engagement when creating a new themed attraction. While TV shows, films, books and comics all provide inspiration, video games could be the source of the next great theme park IP.

Super Nintendo World green tunnel entrance mario IP themed attractions

In part one of this blog post, I asked: “Where will the next great IPs for theme parks and themed attractions come from?”

By Lance HartScreamscape

Much of mainstream Hollywood is being consolidated. This means that there is already a trend for studios to hold back on licensing deals, preferring to hold onto their own IP in some cases. This leaves attractions facing a challenge. They can take the more troublesome road of building their own IP. Or, they can take the risk of attempting to license a less popular IP or one that has not proven itself.

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The previous post explores how the printed page inspires, with novels and non-mainstream comic book properties starting to find great success in licensing deals with streaming services like Amazon and Netflix.

The rise of streaming services

Many streaming services were already popular before the pandemic. And they have only gained strength and an even bigger audience during COVID-19 lock-downs and quarantines in 2020.

Amazon Prime has seen success with many series adapted from books, comics and graphic novels. Current popular titles include The Boys, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Hanna, Tales From the Loop and more. Netflix itself has created many popular titles, with recent popular hits like Stranger Things, Altered Carbon, Lost In Space, Locke & Key, Umbrella Academy and The Witcher.

IP themed attractions Stranger Things Universal

Universal Studios has already tapped the Stranger Things IP to create headline themed attractions for its Halloween Horror Nights event in 2018 and 2019. There was speculation it might return once again in 2020. However, due to the pandemic, Universal has just announced that the Halloween event will not take place in 2020 at the California and Florida parks.

Season 4 of Stranger Things isn’t expected until sometime in 2021, as the filming schedule was put on hold earlier this year. But the IP has gained enough popularity that a major attraction or even an entire themed land isn’t beyond consideration.

Themed attractions and video game IPs

One of Netflix’s biggest hits of the past few months was the release of The Witcher in December 2019, starring fan-favourite Henry Cavill.

The Witcher stands out as a unique case, due to the origin of the IP. The Witcher started as a series of novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski in the early 1990s. The novels were said to be extremely popular in Eastern Europe. But the IP gained global popularity with the creation of The Witcher video game series from CD Projekt Red.

So, are video game IPs mainstream enough for potential themed attractions and lands? Universal Studios would say yes. It has a broad licensing deal with Nintendo to create attractions and entire lands themed after the popular game characters.

The first of these Super Nintendo World lands was set to open in Summer 2020 at Universal Studios Japan. The opening is currently on hold, due to COVID-19 pandemic. The main Nintendo characters, like Mario and Donkey Kong, have achieved ‘evergreen’ status, having been created back in the 1980s and been actively used in games ever since.

Making the leap to LBE

But what about other popular video game franchises and characters? Universal Studios Japan may be at the forefront here as well. It has already tapped many popular video game IPs, along with anime characters, to create temporary themed attractions in recent years. Most notably, during the ‘Universal Cool Japan’ seasonal event.

The video game universes of Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil (Biohazard) have been brought to life in many ways. These range from 4D films, escape rooms, huge character statues and even temporary themed overlays on existing park attractions.

Dagger of Time Prince of Persia Ubisoft VR escape game IP themed attractions

Universal Orlando has even used video games for themed mazes at its popular Halloween Horror Nights event. For instance, bringing to life Silent Hill in 2012 and Resident Evil in 2013.

Are other video games ready to leap the big leagues and have their own themed rides? Sally Corporation, a creative force behind many a theme park dark ride, would agree. Visitors to the company’s IAAPA booth over the past few years will likely have seen the promotional displays for an official Five Nights at Freddy’s dark ride concept.

From Xbox and Playstation, there are also several popular titles that fans would love to see brought to life. Perhaps one of the most popular would be Microsoft’s iconic Halo franchise for the Xbox. Halo has been considered by Hollywood studios for years and seems ready to make the jump to the mainstream. Showtime was shooting the first season of a Halo-themed series, before getting shut down by the pandemic.

Possible future attractions

Other popular IPs that could make the jump to themed attractions include the rich worlds of Bioshock, World of Warcraft, Uncharted, The Last of Us, Gears of War, Tomb Raider, Dead Space, Ratchet & Clank, Sonic the Hedgehog and Fallout. We could even see a deeper dive into the universe of Tom Clancy’s various video game titles. Such as Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell or The Division.

Super Nintendo World Japan

The interactive nature of video game titles could prove popular with current theme park fans. Given the rise of the experience economy, visitors are increasingly craving more interactive attractions.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the creation of original IP. Most theme parks started as concepts put together by talented and visionary people with some huge ideas. They set out to create their own worlds and tell their own stories. Wouldn’t it be great to see this kind of talent embraced once again, bringing something unique and special to life?

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Lance Hart

Lance Hart

Lance has been running Screamscape for nearly 20 years. Married and a father to three roller coaster loving kids, he worked for SeaWorld (San Diego and Orlando) in Operations and Entertainment for 19 years.

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