The last time Mario took to the silver screen, the video game industry was much smaller and Nintendo-though already successful and beloved internationally-was only a budding version of the storied company it is today. With a new animated film in the works for 2022, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto says Nintendo's change in heart towards making another Mario movie was spurred in part by the continued popularity of Nintendo's older games on Virtual Console.
In a Q&A following Nintendo's quarterly earnings release last week, an investor asked why Nintendo has decided to expand Mario to other mediums (not only film, but mobile games and theme parks) and how the company differentiates each one. In response, Miyamoto (translation via Siliconera) notes that while he was against the idea of Nintendo making movies for a long time, that "the background behind this change is because Nintendo has re-released many games via Virtual Console."
Our assets are our software, and even 30 years on, they are still active. However, unfortunately, when the original hardware compatible with the software is gone, we have no choice but to port it onto new hardware. After experiencing this process of bringing older software onto new hardware many times, I began to consider that our content business would be able to develop even further if we were able to combine our long-beloved software with that of video assets, and utilize them together for extended periods.
In a sense, the Virtual Console, NES and SNES services for Nintendo Switch Online, and the line of Classic consoles are Nintendo's equivalent of Disney's back catalogue of classic animated features; even decades later, people still keep coming back Nintendo releases from the '80s and '90s. With that perspective, a movie adaptation could help keep that catalogue going (provided it's done well) with the added benefit of not being something Nintendo has to port forward or else consign to only being available on older hardware.
Miyamoto is said to be closely involved with the development of the Mario movie, which is being made by Illumination (Minions, The Secret Life of Pets). Illumination has yet to announce casting details or a director for the film, which is still expected to be released in 2022.
We probably won't hear about any other big screen adaptations from Nintendo until after the Mario movie hits theaters, but given Miyamoto's Virtual Console comments, it seems likely that Nintendo would sooner focus on another classic series like Zelda before, say, Splatoon. Surely, Nintendo has also taken notes on how Detective Pikachu faired and will be eyeing Sonic the Hedgehog closely as it looks to expand its film footprint.