The first part of my Nintendo Logic series discussed Nintendo’s ‘Nindie’ program. This time, I’m going to write about Nintendo’s highly collectible NFC figurines, Amiibos.
Nintendo’s range of Amiibo figurines. Only one of each probably exist worldwide.
Firstly, a bit of context. Since the rise of NFC figurine-based games such as Skylanders have become such massive hits, it is only natural for Nintendo to make a foray into the increasingly popular ‘Toys to Life’ concept. Skylanders proved popular enough to absorb what was left of the Spyro franchise and swiftly became critically acclaimed on almost every platform it released on, and Disney Infinity, which relies on a similar concept, also received generally favourable reviews. The Wii U GamePad features an NFC reader in the bottom-left corner and the New 3DS has the same technology integrated into the bottom screen, a move that can only foreshadow Nintendo’s wish to move into the NFC figure space. And with the announcement of Amiibos, it did just that – a wave of twelve figures hit the market back in November.
Nintendo’s range of Amiibos can store a small amount of data for one game (usually), which is backed up on the Wii U or New 3DS itself. For example, the Smash Bros range can be used to store ‘Figure Players’, which are super-tough AI characters that can be named, trained up and fed equipment. There are some Amiibo-only tournaments where people enter their best-trained Amiibo to do battle with other FPs. In some cases, Amiibos just need to be scanned in to unlock content, such as Mii racer suits in Mario Kart 8. But there have been glaringly obvious problems – some of them are bloody sold out everywhere.
Nintendo seem to have focused more on exclusivity deals than keeping up with demand. Given their extreme collectibility and the huge marketing campaign launched by Nintendo, you’d have thought the company would have predicted the demand. So why are they in such short supply? By offering some Amiibos as timed exclusives in some locations, particularly a problem in America, Nintendo have shot themselves in the foot by disappointing their most loyal fans who, predictably, want to own them all. But problems have persisted since the first wave, and despite the problem being flagged in numerous articles and tweets from angry customers, the shortages continue.
In fact, take the numbers in the image above – 5.7 million Amiibos shipped worldwide. Granted, the image is from February and the number is for shipments, not necessarily sales – but if we divide this by 44, the number of Amiibos in the Super Smash Bros range, we get about 130,000 each. This seems so much shorter than I’d expect, given the Skylanders series has sold over 240 million figures to date, and is an indication of the degree to which Nintendo is creating an Amiibo bottleneck.
You want a Shulk Amiibo? Yours for only £50.
This was made far worse when Nintendo of America then shot themselves in the foot with a tweet that read:
Uh oh. It looks like Yoshi got caught hiding eggs before Easter. Which #amiibo do you want in your Easter basket?
This highlights an apparent disconnection between the company and its fans, who took the tweet as a middle finger to everyone who had failed to secure a preorder for their favourite character’s Amiibo. Of course this was met by countless angry tweets by users, the first of which simply read “NESS YOU MONSTERS“, but no apology for the insensitive attitude towards disappointed users has been made.
Nintendo had a huge opportunity to satisfy the casual Skylanders-type audience by offering a huge range of characters, and their most loyal (and incredibly rich) fans who would actively seek out the whole collection. But they’ve strangled supply for some bizzare reason. It’s understandable that the demand may have been overwhelming during Wave 1, but those problems should have been fixed by Wave 2, and the pre-orders and exclusives do nothing but disappoint large swathes of fans who weren’t quick enough.
Are you one of those dirty infidels with an old 3DS? You’ll have to wait.
All the while, regular 3DS owners will have to wait until Summer to get their hands on an NFC reader – such a move can only be Nintendo trying to push people to buy a New 3DS instead, which already has the technology. To put that into perspective, even my door carries this incredibly cheap technology – it shouldn’t take the company half a year to push out a 3DS NFC reader. A great opportunity to grab a large chunk of the NFC figure market, ruined by Nintendo logic.