Amiibo: Is It a Cheap Cash-In?

Well it’s official, the holidays have started and there’s little doubt that many gamers can expect a stocking or two stuffed with an Amiibo of their favorite Nintendo character. While it’s too early for sales figures, it’s clear that people have no problem dropping money on these figurines (http://www.gamespot.com/articles/samus-amiibo-defect-sells-for-2-500/1100-6423893/).

So what is an Amiibo and what can you do with it? Personally, as far as I can tell, it’s only function is a display piece, but let’s start off with a more technical explanation. The Amiibo is a figurine with an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip in it’s base. This chip lets it transmit and retain a certain amount of information between itself and an NFC receiver which is found in the Wii U gamepad controller. If you have seen a Skylanders or Disney Infinity playset, then you’re already familiar with the idea.

As of the writing of this article, there have been a total of 29 Amiibo figurines announced. 29! To me, this seems like a blatant cash grab on Nintendo’s part. One which I hope will not be rewarded. So dear reader, learn the facts and make the decision for yourself. As mentioned, there are 29 different Amiibos to purchase, of which 18 will be available by the end of December. These are only part of “wave 1” and “wave 2.” Don’t worry, Nintendo will keep making them as long as gullible people are willing to give them their money. Did I mention that these figurines are not cheap? At 13.99 it would cost you over $400 dollars to collect them all. “But Mike!” you say, “I’m not going to buy all of them, just one or two.” Fair enough, you should still know that the Amiibos only currently effect 3 games. Total. Nintendo has promised additional support in upcoming titles but who knows how much content this will actually entail.

Unfortunately, Nintendo has completely put the cart before the horse. They are selling you on a promise of fun future gameplay without providing ANY kind of concrete examples of said gameplay. Let’s look at all the current forms to utilize your Amiibo:

  1. Smash Brothers: The game which currently has the most amount of Amiibo content. The content sounds cool in principle. Using your figurine causes a CPU replica to appear in the game. You can then level up your character, assign it moves and tweak it’s AI. You can also bring your character to a friend’s house.
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In reality, after 30 minutes of the Amiibos fighting each other (remember you bought 2, right?) Your Amiibo will be level 40 of 60, in just 30 minutes. Additionally, you CANNOT use your Amiibo for any kind of Co-op content/challenges within the game. At best, it’s just another slightly stronger AI bot that can fight against you or on your team in the regular modes. (Source: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/11/nintendo-amiibo-impressions-getting-friend-zoned/)

  1. Mario Kart 8 – Unlocks a special costume for your Mii racer.
  2. Hyrule Warriors – Using the Link or Toon Link Amiibo unlocks a special unique weapon. All other Amiibos unlock a random piece of equipment (not unique).

That’s it. 3 additional games have been announced with Amiibo support have been announced without any actual details on what that support will entail. My guess is that it will be more random costume/map/weapon unlocks and nothing more. But let’s be optimistic for a second, let’s say that hypothetically Nintendo will create a new game that heavily utilizes Amiibo features: I have more bad news for you. You see, while the NFC chip in the figurine can transmit data to any number of games, it can only retain the information for ONE. So if you’ve devoted 10 or 20 hours to your Amiibo in Smash Brothers and made him the most invincible badass, as soon as you play that next big hypothetical game from Nintendo, all that work from Nintendo goes down the drain.

I think Nintendo needs to cut the BS. They are marketing Amiibos as a “New way to play with your favorite characters.” This is terribly misleading. There is virtually no interaction that takes place between you and the figurine. No game currently lets you directly control the character in the figurine in any way. Let’s call a spade a spade, okay Nintendo? These are nothing but glorified mini statues that will grant you occasional very minor boosts or dlc to future Nintendo games you may purchase. If you want to purchase an Amiibo or two to decorate a desk or a shelf, go right ahead. Most of the figurines look good and have been described as having a solid built.

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However, if Nintendo wants these figurines to be successful, they need to stop rubbing their hands while dollar signs flash before their eyes. Stop announcing new figurines; 29 is more than enough! Sit your ass down and come up with some solid game mechanics. Not adjusting a useless AI, not unlocking a costume. Create a game where actually having an Amiibo unlocks a fun and interesting twist on the gameplay. Here’s a good example: create a tactical turn-based RPG (like Fire Emblem) where using an Amiibo will actually insert that character as a unit into the game. Make the character unique, don’t give us a Mario costume, give us Mario! What about an iteration of Monster Hunter where you get to control Link or Samus? The sky’s the limit!

My biggest concern is that Nintendo is creating for itself another Wii situation. Yes, these figurines might fly off the shelves for the first month or two but once it gets in the hands of kids who realize how boring and useless these things are, they will quickly begin to gather dust. If you’ve already bought an Amiibo figurine or have been considering one, hopefully this article has caused you to stop and think. Remember, your hard earned cash is a vote. It tells Nintendo what works and what doesn’t, don’t give them money on a promise or a possibility. Let’s all make sure they actually show us something fun before the $$$ starts flying!

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