That time Japan PM Shinzo Abe dressed as Super Mario at Rio 2016

22 Aug 2016

With the Rio 2016 Olympic Games coming to a close, all eyes are already looking ahead to Asia as South Korea (PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018) and Japan (Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020) await.

As a taster for what’s to come in the latter, Japan PM Shinzo Abe made quite the appearance in Rio, emerging from a giant green pipe that many may recognise.

Super Mario

Sport is merely the central script for the Olympic Games, with the surrounding pageantry a mix of stereotype, nationalism and all things theatre.

In London 2012, there was that stunning opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle that took us through UK history in a remarkable way. Beijing 2008 had a stupendous display of lights, fireworks, music and dancers – 14,000 dancers.

Tokyo? Well, expect some anime and some Super Mario, with Abe’s appearance at the end of Rio 2016, wrapped up in Nintendo garb, hinting at what’s to come.

This will be a boon to Nintendo, among others, with the gaming company’s significance in the tech industry heavily owed to its iconic computer game characters that have somehow survived the test of time.

Nintendo’s future is tied to its past more so than perhaps any other gaming company. Super Mario Bros’ 1985 release has been complemented by numerous sequels across numerous devices.

Zelda and Pokémon are two other iconic figures the company can seemingly wheel out in any format to guarantee success, though its current struggles are real.

Plunging sales of Wii U games consoles and 3DS handsets contributed to a massive $48.6m loss for Nintendo in its first quarter in 2016.

This makes its next moves absolutely crucial. Getting into mobile gaming – decades after initiating the industry with the Gameboy – recent reports have suggested the release of complementary parts for smartphone gaming.

“Physical controllers for smart device applications are available in the market and it is possible that we may also develop something new by ourselves,” Shinya Takahashi, director and GM of entertainment planning, said at Nintendo’s AGM.

Elsewhere, based on leaked details of Nintendo’s upcoming NX portable console, it appears that we will soon be returning to an age of gaming cartridges.

Each and every decision the company makes, though, will get a boost from international attention focused on Super Mario.

Shinzo Abe, Japan PM and Nintendo’s finest marketer.

Super Mario image via JD Hancock/Flickr

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic