Walt Disney (DIS 0.55%) is the undisputed champ of the theme park universe. It operates the four busiest gated attractions in the world, and all but two of top 10. The media giant's portfolio of global properties entertains more than double the guests of its nearest competitor on any given day. It's a lead that may seem insurmountable, but that doesn't mean that the House of Mouse can play it safe.  

Last week, I ventured out to California. I made it out to Disneyland, of course. My mouse ears run deep. However, I also went to Comcast's (CMCSA 1.43%) Universal Studios Hollywood -- less than an hour's drive away when traffic is kind -- to check out the new Super Nintendo World expansion that had opened less than three weeks earlier. 

It seems like a lifetime ago that Comcast announced a partnership with Japanese gaming giant Nintendo (NTDOY) to build out immersive theme park experiences centered around iconic video game franchises. The first one would open five years later, in 2021, at Universal Studios Japan. California opened the smallest of three planned Nintendo-themed destinations on Feb. 17. The third and potentially largest iteration will debut inside Universal Orlando's new Epic Universe theme park in 2025, just a few highway exits away from Disney World. Comcast would later announce that a fourth Super Nintendo World is coming to its park in Singapore, also in 2025. Things are going to get interesting. 

Through the warp pipe

I figured I had planned my trip to kick the tires of the first stateside Super Nintendo World perfectly. I chose last Monday, the third Monday since the land's official debut. I wasn't going to head up there on a weekend, and the local public schools were nearly a month away from their spring break holiday. 

I wasn't the only one who figured that it would be a quiet day at the park. Universal Studios Hollywood itself was telegraphing light crowds with its demand-based variable pricing for tickets and premium add-ons. March 6 would be the cheapest day to head to the park since the official opening in mid-February.

By the time I got there from Disneyland, a couple of hours into the operating day, Super Nintendo World was wall to wall with fellow guests. The only actual ride in the tight space -- a Super Mario Kart race attraction where guests don virtual reality headwear and compete for points using augmented reality to fire shells at other drivers and projected targets -- already had a three-hour wait. 

Super Nintendo World concept art for the original Universal Studios Japan park.

Image source: Comcast's Universal Studios.

I have a more thorough video review of the experience here, but let's get down to how this is going to be a huge money maker for Comcast and Nintendo. The only thing more crowded than some of the interactive elements and meet-and-greet queues at Super Nintendo World was the gift shop. The land's Toadstool Cafe–themed restaurant is so popular that virtual reservations that have to be made from inside the park were already fully booked for the day by the time we arrived. Then we got to the Power-Up bands. 

The park sells bracelets for guests that allow them to make the most of the experience. The $40 wrist-huggers aren't actually powered up, despite the name. Power-Up bands are plastic slap-on bracelets with an RFID chip that sets off sensors throughout Super Nintendo World. Comcast has tapped a third-party franchise for a similar money maker before. Its partnership with J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter was a game changer for Universal Studios. The difference here is that the Power-Up band is essential for making the most out of the Super Nintendo World experience. 

The bands are required to interact with countless features. You need one to play the four games that can unlock keys to enter into a fifth area for a boss battle with Bowser Jr. to complete the experience. Everyone doesn't need one. You can still enjoy the ride and have your photo taken with Mario, Luigi, and Peach without spending another $40 for the reusable Power-Up band. However, nearly every group I saw had at least one person with the interactive bracelet. Scores of the stars and keys collected are saved on the official park app, so they also inspire repeat visits to keep building on the experience. 

I had mixed opinions overall of the Super Nintendo World experience, but it's undeniably going to make a lot of money for both Comcast and Nintendo. Turning to Florida, its 2025 rendition will be much larger with more rides and experiences. Comcast hasn't made its attractions lineup official, but there is clearly a Donkey Kong–themed rollercoaster being introduced. 

Disney World isn't immune to the pull that nearby attractions can have on tourists to Central Florida. Universal Orlando is its closest rival in terms of attendance numbers, and those turnstile clicks picked up after it opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The debut of an entire new park in two years with what will be a wildly popular Super Nintendo World area is going to intensify the competitive landscape. Disney has recently opened a couple of popular attractions timed to the resort turning 50 years old, but it can't arrive empty-handed to the Nintendo housewarming party in 2025. Will Disney finally introduce a fifth theme park, or will it just build out its four existing gated attractions? It can't continue to dominate as the top dog of travel and tourism stocks by standing still. It needs to collect enough keys to level up to the boss battle.