Nintendo’s new figures show an impressive number of characters, but does the company know how many of their Amiibos are actually available and how much gamers use them for actual games which support them?
Nintendo supports black market with its Amiibos
Nintendo’s line of Amiibo figures shows the Japanese company misinterprets the current market. Not having been into the whole Skylander and/or Disney Infinity franchise at all, my girlfriend and I recently bought a couple of Amiibos, just because we liked the individual characters. That’s what fans do. But what does Nintendo do? They apparently don’t care much about what their fans want.
This became obvious after certain Amiibos weren’t in stock on Amazon anymore, while other retailers didn’t have them either. So where did they all go? Apparently, people bought them on release day or a bit later and then put them up for sale for very high prices. How did Nintendo react? They didn’t. After seeing the failure of these “toys” in their home country Japan, the big N didn’t expect that people from the US and especially Europe wanted to own every one of them, and not really for gameplay, but for putting them on their shelves.
Big N(intendo) doesn’t do big B(usiness)
So Nintendo didn’t or doesn’t do as any company in their right business mind would do. Even if they were hand-painted, no new figures were produced, and after months of pleading, Nintendo spokesperson Satoru Iwata said they’d use NFC-enabled cards to replace them sooner or later. What kind of business model is that? People clearly want something to hold in their hands which comes close to the “real thing”. And it seems they’re also willing to pay the price.
But what about those who aren’t collectors? Those who just love to have a figure on their desk, no matter what age or sex? Or (grand)parents surprising their children with a present? Nintendo doesn’t seem to care, which is strange, considering that the company has been struggling with their Wii U sales for quite some time. If they’d sell one Amiibo for 15 Euros (which is quite a lot, actually, compared to 8-12 Euros their competitors charge), what use would they have if someone who just buys it in order to immediately sell it for twice, thrice as much or even more?
Now it’s not that the shelves are completely empty. There are still a lot of figures to buy, especially from the standard Mario series. But some (King Dedede, Zelda) are difficult to come by. What’s also quite telling is that those with more details seem to be sold out and sought after the most. In addition, some of the most common figures using up a lot of shelf space have been reduced in price. However, that’s not really part of Nintendo’s making amends policy, but simply to clear the space for the cards.
What’s Nintendo’s/Amiibo’s purpose in gamers’/collectors’ life?
So everyone wants an Amiibo, but why and where to get it? These are the questions troubling people interested in the new path Nintendo is taking but also losing. Problems of production aside, there’s also the question of what functions Amiibos have. Unlike Skylanders and Disney Infinity which build their whole line-ups not only on the selling point of the mascots themselves, but on the actual games which require the purchases of many figures, Nintendo again doesn’t know what it’s doing. And that’s not only because of some rather dodgy retail-thing-sometimes-doesn’t-look-like-the-prototype-thing phenomenon…
The first problem is that other companies have already shown a solution for using figures without opening the box, while Nintendo refuses to do the same. Due to a chip on the bottom of the plastic box that is obstructed by a sticker, one has to open the whole box. Even with some tricky scissor cutting, the value for collectors is lost forever. And what about the chip itself? Does it have an expiring date? If yes, then does one need to buy the figures again which will obviously not be available anymore?
Again presuming that the whole packaging problems don’t exist, what does exist is the way Amiibos are supported by games. At the moment, there’s not much one can do, actually. Super Smash Bros has certainly a great concept of using them as in-game characters and levelling them up. But as one can already play with all Nintendo characters right out of the box (no pun intended), this feature becomes obsolete as well, considering that one can customize the chosen character anyway. What about the other title, Super Mario Kart, then? The only feature is that one can choose a different suit, something which can already be done via DLC (another problematic step Nintendo took).
Amiibos or no Amiibos, that’s the question
So what does the whole Nintendo market strategy of selling Amiibos leave us with? At the moment, one can only try to get the figures one desires as quickly as possible. But taking into account that some were already sold out before the day of release by pre-ordering on Amazon and many not being available in discounters shortly after, this is no easy feat.
It’s not that there are empty shelves with people buying like crazy, it’s simply that certain figures were produced in such a limited quantity that it’s almost impossible to get them without paying a very high and ridiculous price, as the latest Gold Mario Amiibo shows that was already sold out when it was put on the Walmart website. Now it’s only possible to get it from eBay, and we all know how this price betting ends up.
The only option is then to spend a lot of cash and buying these figures from people who apparently only see an opportunity to make easy money with them. Or another option is to wait for Nintendo to finally hear the cries of the community and have new ones made, even if it means Shigeru Miyamato has to handpaint them himself.
At least, then something like this wouldn’t happen…
Note: This review was written in cooperation with Future Sack editor Annagram.