A lot has been made of the Nintendo Amiibo craze – you know, those little figurines of iconic Nintendo characters such as Mario and Link – and the public’s fascination with them. As a matter of fact they have sold so quickly that even Nintendo admitted that sales had “smashed” their expectations, and that the success of the Amiibo figurines had been “unprecedented”.
And in early May the Japanese company saw fit to release an apology to gamers, admitting that communication with their fans had not been the best, and that they planned to “bring back some currently out-of-stock Amiibo figures”. This is a good thing, considering that getting hold of certain Amiibos has been as hard as finding water in the middle of a desert. When Nintendo released Wave 4 of the Amiibo figurines, demand was such that the GameStop website crashed, and the stock sold out in less than 24 hours.
But why such an interest in the Amiibo figurines? If one thing is clear, is that part of the success of Amiibo has to do with the fact that these toy figures represent some of the most iconic characters in the history of gaming, characters that players have known for decades, like Mario, Link and Donkey Kong. Nintendo is the Walt Disney of video games after all, and a character like Mario is as familiar to kids (and adults) as Mickey Mouse.
Also the fact that Amiibos can be used in some of the Wii U’s games is part of what makes them so fascinating to gamers. By tapping the base of the Amiibo to the Wii U’s gamepad, the character appears in the game. It will be a companion character, a “virtual pet”, and not a playable one. But the fact that you get to name your Amiibo, choose a costume for it and get it to level up in the game as it fights with you, makes it easy to form an emotional connection to your Amiibo in a game like Super Smash Bros., for instance.
So given how in love people are with the Amiibo figurines, it would be a pity if Nintendo keeps underestimating demand. In the Japanese company’s early May apology, Nintendo said that demand would “outpace supply levels for certain characters at times” and that “some figures will be easier to find than others”. Which is not exactly encouraging for Nintendo fans who were hunting for that elusive Mario Amiibo only to find that it had sold out.
It would be a shame if those fans had to resort to unscrupulous Ebay sellers, who may end up ripping them off their hard-earned cash. Some may even choose to import Amiibo figurines from Japan, given that there appears to be no shortage of Amiibo figurines in the Land of the Rising Sun, and that Amiibo are region free, meaning they can be used with Wii U consoles worldwide.
But if one thing is clear is that the Amiibo craze represents a golden opportunity for Nintendo to become a big player in the toy business. Because despite the fact that gamers have had a hard time getting hold of the Amiibo figurines, more than 5 million Amiibo have been sold so far, according to GameSpot. And interest in the Amiibo could help lift sales of the Wii U console, which is lagging behind rival Sony’s PS4 by a considerable margin.
All things considered, it would be great if Nintendo played their cards right and made sure collectors, hardcore gamers and the casual crowd can get hold of the coveted toy figurines, as leaving their fans out in the cold might backfire in the future.