When it comes to amiibo we often discuss stock issues, and the fact that acquiring specific toys is akin to obtaining an interesting quote from a politician - difficult and mostly fruitless; yet there's perhaps not enough focus on the concept itself. Until last week its implementation had been relatively straightforward, with a neat levelling system in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and likeable but relatively throwaway content unlocks in Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors. All very nice, but it was also tricky to gauge the actual impact they were having on our game time.
While plenty of gamers - including this writer - have dutifully unboxed and actually used amiibo in games, building up the irrepressible 'Young Charlie' Link amiibo - it's an old film reference, never mind - and others to level 50, for some the range have been just-about-reasonably-priced collectible toys. There are plenty that are no doubt sitting in their boxes, trapped in plastic prisons as opposed to being liberated as cartooney brawlers that fight for our entertainment. Perhaps in this age of an intelligent and increasingly self-aware Mario we should acknowledge that both fates are a little cruel. Forgetting that nonsense, however, it seems a pity that for some of these toys their little NFC chip will go unused, an unnecessary and wasteful piece of silicon.
At the moment Nintendo likely won't care a jot about that, as it's managed to sell - despite its own best efforts to make a mess of distribution - millions of toys already. In fact, had there been supply to meet demand the company could have been popping champagne corks for an even better launch, but we suspect its rather happy to celebrate the win for now.
In the big N's defence, serious demand for the toys was never a guarantee. There were fears that toys-for-life as a concept had fallen flat, and also valid concerns that the figures were supporting the struggling Wii U platform - 3DS support through the 'New' hardware is on the way now, of course, and has been around in Japan for a couple of months. Yet those fears clearly overlooked the voracious appetite of fans for official Nintendo merchandise, no matter how plastic-based they may be or, in some case, no matter how weird their faces. Once these toys landed they were flying off shelves, with all but the most standard models now being exceptionally hard to find; we're at the stage with new Smash Bros. waves where pre-orders sell-out or even go unfulfilled.
Then, of course, Nintendo unveiled the near-future of amiibo in its Nintendo Direct broadcasts last week; a new Super Mario range, a fourth wave for Super Smash Bros. and three games each for the Wii U and New Nintendo 3DS that will soon be using the toys. We summarised these details and asked for your amiibo feedback earlier this week to get the NL community's perspective, with hundreds of you obliging. The results were interesting and reflect the challenges that lie ahead for Nintendo.
First of all we learned, unsurprisingly, that demand for the Smash Bros. fourth wave - which includes Ness - is particularly high.
Are you planning to pick up the Super Smash Bros. Wave 4 amiibo? (630 votes)
- Oh yes! I'll try and get all of them18%
- Definitely, I'm planning to pick up a few, but not all of them36%
- I'll pick one27%
- Nah, none for me12%
- I'm not interested in amiibo at all7%
The launch waves have arguably achieved a perfect storm of novelty and fun usage in Super Smash Bros., while the sheer range of characters has led to huge demand for mascots that aren't the most often-seen and mainstream of Nintendo characters.
Which brings us to the Super Mario range (pictured above); with the exception of Toad we've seen these before, while they're certainly more generic designs, which is to be expected as they're not mimicking Super Smash Bros. trophies. They benefit from not having rather ugly plastic supports, but the less extravagant design, the affiliation to Mario Party 10 and the way they'll be used in that game - though they're compatible in Smash - could all be factors in the less enthusiastic response.
Are you planning to pick up the Super Mario amiibo? (612 votes)
- Oh yes! I'll try and get all of them11%
- Definitely, I'm planning to pick up a few, but not all of them15%
- I'll pick one35%
- Nah, none for me32%
- I'm not interested in amiibo at all7%
Those are pretty high percentages that are only planning to pick up one figure or none at all. Perhaps most intriguing is that there are certainly decent numbers (within this sample, naturally) that are starting to sit on the fence or be disappointed in the way amiibo is being utilised on Wii U.
What do you think of the upcoming Wii U amiibo support? (597 votes)
- Terrific all around, looking forward to trying out amiibo in all three games19%
- Not bad, though I'm mostly interested in Mario Party 10 features13%
- Not bad, though I'm mostly interested in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse features3%
- Not bad, though I'm mostly interested in using Toad for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker features8%
- I'm not really sure, I'm yet to be convinced33%
- Pretty disappointing, I'm hoping for better use of amiibo19%
- Nope, not interested at all6%
What's interesting is that, in terms of functionality, there's not a huge amount more that amiibo can do - we're talking about simple NFC technology that stores a tiny amount of data. The novelty is wearing off, though voting was marginally - but not significantly - more favourable for amiibo plans on 3DS, particularly thanks to Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
What do you think of the upcoming 3DS amiibo support? (589 votes)
- Terrific all around, looking forward to trying out amiibo in all of the games16%
- Not bad, though I'm mostly interested in Smash Bros. features14%
- Not bad, though I'm mostly interested in Code Name S.T.E.A.M features24%
- Not bad, though I'm mostly interested in Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy+ features1%
- I'm not really sure, I'm yet to be convinced22%
- Pretty disappointing, I'm hoping for better use of amiibo13%
- Nope, not interested at all11%
To end on a positive from these polls, there was a decent number in our final question that were pretty happy with how amiibo is shaping up, though with notable numbers that are still not overwhelmed with glee.
How do you feel about the amiibo reveals for 2015, overall? (588 votes)
- Very impressed, and looking forward to collecting and using more figures17%
- Quite pleased, amiibo is going well37%
- Hm, I'm not sure how I feel26%
- A bit disappointed10%
- Very disappointed, Nintendo should be doing better with amiibo5%
- I couldn't care less about amiibo6%
The big loser, at least within a limited sample of the Nintendo Life community, was certainly the Super Mario wave and the much trumpeted Read / Write features to be included in Mario Party 10. The response wasn't disastrous, but showed that the fervour and excitement from the launch of those first Smash Bros. figures isn't necessarily converted - as a matter of course - to new ranges. The next few games and those generic Super Mario amiibo aren't quite hitting the heights, yet.
That's the challenge for Nintendo - it has to find creative ways to use exceptionally primitive toys-to-life technology while maintaining momentum. At the very start of the article we suggested that a number of Smash Bros. figurines may have been bought as novelty collector's items, and the blasé response would be "who cares, it's money in the bank". Yet such is Nintendo's evident investment in the amiibo brand that it needs the toys to sell in their millions even when material and characters is repeated. The more Link and Mario toys come to market the less novelty collectors will care - it's by hooking those that are using them and playing games that amiibo will maintain success.
Nintendo certainly has enough diverse games coming this year to do interesting things with amiibo, but it'll no doubt be hoping that the excitement and frenzy over Smash Bros. toys isn't a one time flash in the pan. The company has claimed that these are more diverse, intelligent NFC toys than rival brands; they may need to be smarter if we're to keep buying them for the rest of this year and beyond.
Or just do a Pokémon range, that'll do it...
As a bonus for you, our man Alex has put together a snappy video with his summary of the latest in the world of amiibo. You can watch it below, and be sure to subscribe to the Nintendo Life YouTube channel for more of this sort of thing in the coming days, weeks, months, years and decades. Enjoy!