It may seem that the knitted amiibo for Yoshi's Woolly World are simply a gimmick. However, for children the difference here is more than aesthetic. They mark a new toys to life trend of offering playable toys rather than collectable figurines for the shelf.
Of course, historically toys to life products have never really been toys at all. Sure, they are fine and can inspire imaginative play, but in terms of really functioning like a plaything, they've simply not delivered. While mounted on plastic bases these artefacts are more collectable figurines for the shelf than a toy for the living room carpet.
Lego Dimensions has addressed this to some extent with its proper Lego minifigures and kits to accompany their on-screen experience. This solution has split the tech and the toy though, so that the really action is happening in the small plastic base that can be separated from the toy. This is a step in the right direction, but there is the danger of either losing or mixing up the bases and the toys.
Skylanders Superchargers also addresses this for the first time this year. Its new vehicles are much more like toys that collectables. In fact you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference between them and other push along cars. The tech is embedded in the toy itself so that it functions as an articulated play thing as well as a smart trigger to access content.
This brings us to the woolly Yoshi amiibos. Without a base they are a hug-able soft plushy. Seeing them in this form prompted my kids to ask "Why have the other amiibos got the plastic bases, dad?" I have to admit I didn't really have an answer. Unlike Skylanders or Disney Infinity, they don't have to sit on a portal so don't need to be stable. There has always been the opportunity to do away with the base to maximise the play value.
As you can see, without a base and in soft cuddly form the way a child responds to the figure is quite different to other amiibos. Sure, they still have that tech payload for unlocking content in the game, but at the same time they are a proper toy.
Toys to Life started with Activision's ambitious and risky bet on Skylanders with its plastic figures on circular stands. Now established, the future of the category lies in moving the tech inside to let the toys be toys.
Would you want to see more amiibos like this? In a way we have already with the Skylanders Superchargers Donkey Kong and Bowser vehicles. Which other characters would work with a base-less implementation?