Nintendo Drops The Amii-Ball

Being the weekend, Nintendo has not yet explained the delay but numerous major stores report  not to have received their complete shipment for the new wave of Amiibo figures, to have been released yesterday.  GameStop, Target,  Walmart and BestBuy locations report that no or limited stock came in, some only receiving one or two of the new figures, if any. None have any information on their expected receipt.

One GameStop location in New York claims the Amiibo figures have been delayed till the 13th, the day of the release of the new Nintendo 3DS. This has not been corroborated as of this writing.

The Nintendo Store in NYC, on the other hand, not only received their full shipment but broke their own company’s street date and started selling them last Tuesday, according to the manager on duty this morning.  They have already sold through their stock, and have none available on the advertised day of release.


This is only the latest in a series of missteps that would ordinarily enrage gamers, but has somehow only increased the frenzy in obtaining the collectibles, far above the level that their playability would suggest.

The Nintendo Amiibo are the company’s foray into the integrated figurine market, joining the Skylanders and Disney’s INfinity lines.  The Nintendo lines differ from their competitors in two ways.  One, while the other lines only work in the game for which they have been designed, the Amiibo are compatible with a number of games, both current and upcoming, in varying ways.  Second, while the other companies are offering the figures in plentiful numbers, Nintendo has offered theirs in limited quantity, bringing figures out of production soon after their release.

The interactivity the figures offer is somewhat limited – they can store level information for Super Smash Bros, allowing you to bring your leveled-up character with you to friends’ homes, playing your character against their on other systems. A second game, Mario Party 10, will also allow you to store your progress, but there’s an important caveat – you can only store one game’s data on the figure.  So if you want to start using it to play mario Party, kiss your Smash Bros level data good bye. Of course, Nintendo is releasing a second set of the mario figures, identical save for different colored bases than the original, so if you want to store both games’ progress, you won’t feel silly buying two of the exact same figures for each games’ data.

Two of the Amiibo figres I'm getting for my daughter, along with the one I'd have to trade her to get.

Two of the Amiibo figres I’m getting for my daughter, along with the one I’d have to trade her to get.

Other games offer Amiibo compatibility limited to obtaining special character bonuses and power-ups when the figure is activated in the game.  The Nintendo site offers a list of the games here. Save for the Smash Bros games, only two releases to date allow for the use of all the Amiibo figures.  A large number are essentially one-shot items that become more shelf porn.

As a result, Nintendo announced almost immediately after their release that several of the “one use only” figures first wave of Amiibo, including the Animal Crossing Villager and Wii Fit trainer, were already “out of print.” which is code for “buy every one you can regardless of how disinterested you are in them, because they are going to be worth BIG money.”  That, combined with the limited production runs has turned the line from an interesting game peripheral to instant fodder for speculators, increasing demand by an order of magnitude an making it nearly impossible for actually interested parties to obtain them.

The new wave of figures, ostensibly to have been released today, have been snapped up well ahead of their release in preparation for Nintendo’d announcement that some or all would receive a limited run.  This was exacerbated by the release of figures only offered by one store, like GameStop offering Shulk from the Xenoblade series, and BestBuy offers MetaKnight from the Kirby series.  These figres sold out almost immediately after being going up on their companies’ web sites, and pre-sales auctions on ebay are already getting four and five times their original price.

One of the upcoming games to offer Amiibo compatibility is the offbeat steampunk shooter Codename S.T.E.A.M. Four exclusive characters originally from the Fire Emblem series can be unlocked using their Amiibo figures. One problem – one of them, Marth, was one of the “discontinued” figures from the first wave of figures, and already fetching scalpers’ prices on the grey market. All signs point to the same being so for the three figures coming soon in an upcoming wave. Nintendo promises to make more marth figures available, but the odds that they’ll be plentiful enough to obtain without concerted effort is unlikely.

So to play all the characters in the game, you’ll need to spend a minimum of fifty or so dollars, more than the cost of the cartridge itself, and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to get the figures at the MSRP. Which you almost certainly won’t.

In short, while the Amiibo offer limited playability, at least they’re hard to get.  A suspicious individual would almost surmise that Nintendo, knowing the item they have offers limited play value, made moves to increase their scarcity, allowing the collector mentality to override the limitations of the product.

But that’d just be crazy. Right?