Released in 2014 with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, amiibo marked the beginning of Nintendo’s foray into the toys-to-life market with NFC figurines of every Super Smash Bros. character at the time. Unlike its competitors, amiibo were unique in their ability to work across a multitude of games and worked more like a bonus feature than a necessary tool for progression like in Skylanders or Disney Infinity. Interestingly, amiibo remain as the last remnant of a by-gone era of bargain bins being plagued with unsellable game characters, but why exactly is that?
The “Nintendo” Effect
Naturally, the first point to look at when it comes to any product put on sale is brand recognition and Nintendo has some of the most recognizable brands, characters and franchises in the world. Whether it be the most recognizable face in gaming, Mario, or someone more obscure like Olimar, every Nintendo franchise has millions of fans who want to collect and own memorabilia of their favourite characters before even considering the functional element the NFC chip can bring in.
You can also tie this in with obscure Nintendo characters like Ness, Lucas or Pit who seldom get any products and/or are extremely expensive to get because of limited market time or having to import them from Japan. Having readily available figurines of iconic characters like this will always be appealing for those audiences who rarely get an opportunity to find the associated merchandise.
Use and Functions
Whilst arguably less useful than a Skylanders figure which you need to use constantly and level up across all 6 games, amiibo have the unique function of some of them working across dozens of games to unlock items, costumes, or have more in-depth functions in more specific games. Take Breath of the Wild, for example, each unique Link amiibo offers exclusive items from their original games including cosmetics like the tunics from those adventures that cannot be found in-game otherwise. Or Wolf Link, who unlocks a companion who helps you fight monsters in-game who’s health is also determined by how much health you had left when you completed Twilight Princess HD‘s “Cave of Shadows”. The best part of these amiibo is that the more you have the more rewarded you get when a game does support them, whether it’s inviting specific villagers to your island in Animal Crossing or getting the Ocarina of Time tunic in Breath of the Wild. There’s always a use for picking up your favourite characters.
Build Quality and Pricing
It’s no question that amiibo had a rough start, just look at the original Smash Bros Link and compare it to one of the Zelda 30th anniversary figures. However, for most of their shelf life amiibo have looked great and the price has stayed consistently low. For between £11-12.99 you can get a decent looking figurine of any Nintendo character at RRP, but unfortunately due to the rarity of some of the older discontinued lines some of these have hugely inflated prices (with the most expensive being the Player 2 Corrin amiibo sitting at around £120 on the resell market). The figures used to be a lot harder to get but in the last couple of years if you wanted a new amiibo they have been surprisingly easy to pre-order and get on release and if you’re lucky they will restock some legacy amiibo around the launch of a new game, such as the Kirby amiibo recently with the release of The Forgotten Land.
Overall, due to their cheap pricing, high build quality, and large number of uses, amiibo have remained a staple of a Nintendo collector’s collection and have outlasted the appeal of their competitors despite the licences some of them put behind their games. Its doubtful at this late stage that we’ll get a true amiibo game akin to Skylanders but it’s nice to see them still releasing a few figures of our favourite franchises per year even if they aren’t at their peak in popularity anymore. How many amiibo do you own and which are your favourite? Send a picture of your collection to our Twitter!
Video game completionist and 3D platformer connoisseur, Riley is a fan of the whimsical frenzy of bright and colourful characters to bless us in the late 90's. Their favourite game's are Spyro, Persona 5 and Super Mario Sunshine.