Nintendo is working on new figures of video game characters that will integrate with the Wii U and 3DS. These plastic figures are called amiibos. The amiibo can be placed on the Wii U game pad or on an upcoming 3DS peripheral and is recognized by certain games including: Super Smash Bros for Wii U, Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Mario Party 10, and Yoshi’s Wolly World.
Nintendo is not new to peripherals like this. The Gameboy Advanced had a card reader called the e-Reader and special AR cards to scan into the system. It was mainly used for mini-games and not very exciting additional content and I got bored of it quickly. Will gamers do the same and get fed up with the gimmick of Amiibos?
I don’t think Amiibos will be a failure. Toys and figures that are video game related sell very well. Developers are always adding in plastic figures to collectors editions to charge $100 or more. Skylanders has set the bar with over $2 billion in sales. Amiibos are similar to the Skylanders toys which can be scanned through the Portal of Power and used in the Skylanders games. Characters for Skylanders run around $10 each. Skylanders has the advantage of being a game that is available for every console. The characters work between different platforms. The Amiibos will be exclusive to Wii U, limiting the sales. Even if kids love it, there may not be enough kids with a Wii U to support it.
Super Smash Bros. will let a player scan in a character to team up with it in battle, fight against it, or watch it fight other characters. It seems that it won’t be used to add in playable characters like in Skylanders, but what if that does happen?
Competitive gamers may be turned away from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U if amiibos unlock characters for the game. Having access to limited characters could effect the training and competitions for Super Smash Bros. championships. Magic the Gathering tournaments could be an example that Super Smash Bros. competitions have to follow. Amiibos could be released in waves spread out over multiple years. New Magic the Gathering cards are always in production and have a consistent release schedule. Magic the Gathering tournaments limit the cards that can be played by when they are released. The same could happen for characters in Super Smash Bros. if amiibos unlock exclusive characters in the future.
Amiibos also bring up a controversy that surrounds downloadable content (DLC) for video games. Often video games have content already on the disk or as part of the digital file that can only be unlocked by paying a premium price for the extra content. If the amiibo characters are built into the game files already, serious gamers could become frustrated that they can’t access that part of the game without needing a special figure.
Nintendo has additional information online, but we’ll have to wait to see what amiibos bring to the game when they are released holiday 2014.