Okay, I think it’s about time I got this off my chest. I’ve had about enough of the whole amiibo situation.
I’ve had this disdain for the entire line for a while now. Initially, I was quite excited – I’ve never really been interested in the “toys-to-life” genre that appears to be blossoming off the back of Activision bastardising the Spyro franchise into the critical success that is Skylanders. Next, we get Disney throwing Infinity into the ring (which is now preparing Inifinity 3.0 in such a short space of time), and then Nintendo wanted to hop on the bandwagon; as their prime market is mostly children I totally understood the scheme, and as a Nintendo fan, I was excited to see where they went with.
To be fair to amiibo, they’re first and foremost well-crafted figurines that depict many of our favourites in aesthetically pleasing merchandise to collect, and the prospect of using your Link amiibo in Smash Bros to have a CPU buddy to play with who is almost guaranteed to give you a run for your money is a really great idea. On top of this, we got promised they would really unlock some cool, extra content for those that joined in.
I’ll start by discussing this functionality. The use of amiibo in Smash sounded great – as above, they would level up and gain skill alongside real players to become better players than standard AI, presenting challenge. This function worked brilliantly – one Smash tournament had a standard Fox McCloud amiibo entered as a joke. The figurine actually began playing well and it effectively learned how to beat the human players. With such a strong start, our expectations were naturally high. And that, sadly, was where the amiibo downfall began for me.
Personally, I feel a lot of us expected more invention from Nintendo in terms of the exclusive content hidden away for those dedicated fans. To go from a portable, pocketable Smash player right down to extra outfits for Mario Kart racers felt like the downfall so quickly. Extra costumes continued on into the recent Wii U title, Splatoon, where exclusive online character customization options were hidden away in the all-too exclusive Squid and Boy/Girl Inklings. However, they did also add extra challenges to at least extend the game a little bit more for those of us dedicated to the single-player. They were also some of the best-looking and detailed amiibo, which is a shame as they were some of the fastest to ‘run out.’
Yes, I don’t care how dead this horse is that I’m beating. I’m going to talk about the limited runs. I get that they are designed to be exclusive and collectable. I get that I sound ridiculously hypocritical talking about limited runs when I am also an avid player of pay-to-win trading card game Magic: The Gathering. But I can’t help it – the runs are too small. It’s all well and good of Nintendo to talk about how they ‘didn’t expect to be met with as much demand [for the lesser known amiibo]’ and that they would go on to ‘re-print editions of extremely limited’ amiibo such as Marth if they felt inclined. No one, however, has expressed a desire to increase the amount being produced.
And this is where the problem lies: there simply aren’t enough of each wave of amiibo in circulation. I don’t have a problem of the store-exclusives like the Gold and Silver Mario amiibo being distributed to different stores. I DO have a problem with those that will limit the amount of game available to us because all ten of them have been picked up by scalpers.
Scalping, for the unaware, is the act of purchasing one or multiple items at release or reserving them ahead of release and then listing them online or otherwise selling them on at massively higher prices. If we stop and think about how these two issues might connect (scalping and low production), it becomes a worrying economic mess. A basic principle of business is obviously supply and demand – businesses aim to have equal supply for the demand to become profitable. However, when there is low supply but still high demand, prices get high. Applying this to Nintendo’s line of toys, we get incredibly low runs of figurines so scalpers will pick up seven at a time and then slap them on eBay and Amazon. For an example, take the Lucina amiibo from wave 4 of production: although listed in the UK as having an RRP of £10.99 like all amiibo, she currently goes for £34.99 on Amazon and for similar prices on eBay.
Now, with a product line as limited as the runs of amiibo seem to be, you would expect quality control to be as good as possible, correct? Wrong. Even a short Google search can bring you hundreds of stills of factory-defective models (coincidentally fetching rather high prices) ranging from the rather tame dual-wielding Samus Aran to the downright terrifying Diddy “No Jaw” Kong. This is equally as grating, as it would seem that not only is Nintendo directly inflating demand, but the supply that is available is hardly managed at all. Coupled with the increasing trend of counterfeits appearing on the market, amiibo collecting is evolving into a hobby that requires you undergoing some serious detective and leg work before purchasing.
I’ll draw this to a close by offering up a recent Tweet by Nintendo of America. At E3, Nintendo announced that they would be producing an amiibo for every Smash Bros character. To me, this represents a stark lack of customer respect. They are effectively dismissing any issues because people will be able to pick up new characters and the older ones will eventually be forgotten about. If we work with the amiibo that release alongside games such as the Splatoon ones, it’s going to become almost impossible to keep up with them before much longer.
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) June 14, 2015
In an effort to balance this out, I will offer up that I am hopeful for the future. With the delightful plush designs of the Yoshi’s Woolly World yarn amiibo coming very shortly, I am crossing my fingers that this innovation will spread out to other franchises – let’s be honest, if they just keep re-releasing Mario and Link in vinyl but posed differently, it’s going to get stale. Hopefully, we will see more effort on Nintendo’s part to put a dent in the scalping market or by stepping up production on their Smash-hit collectables. In the meantime, you can head to amiibo alerts or look for other websites to try to keep ahead of the waves and snatch up a bargain.
If you’re hungry for more sweary, British amiibo-induced salt, you can view Jim Sterling’s Splatoon-fueled Jimquisition on them here.