Author(s): Trevor Pardee
After just half a year on the market, it's clear that Nintendo has hit a home run with its Amiibo figurines — a reminder of the company's original successes in selling toys and playing cards.
Amiibo are collectable models with an NFC chip embedded in their base. They're similar to Skylanders products and Disney's Infinity lines, but Amiibo offer a few advantages: the figures are compatible with an ever-expanding list of popular games, and appeal to a broader age range than rival offerings.
Demand for Amiibo is far outstripping supply, pushing the price of more desirable models to several times higher than their $13 retail value. Last month, I noticed a Star Fox Amiibo in stock at a Best Buy store. The shop assistant was stunned to hear that the same model was selling for $30 on Amazon.
Amiibo have enabled me to reveal new player skins and claim extra lives, but their features feel limited at present. In a small handful of games, connecting a specific Amiibo unlocks a particular character or costume, and I'd like to see more of these kind of interactions. The figurines are an innovative proof-of-concept for improving gameplay experiences, but could come across as a lazy cash grab if Nintendo can't enhance the product's utility.
I'd like Amiibo to become a more organic part of gaming, and for Nintendo to surprise us with new interactions for the models. The application of NFC technology within games is an interesting step, but Nintendo appears unclear about how best to utilize it. However, the company may reveal some tricks up its sleeve at the E3 2015 convention in June.
Nintendo has a success on its hands, but must carefully develop the Amiibo product or risk falling out of favour. Failure could mean the figures are perceived as a gimmick, in much the same way that the Wii's once-innovative motion-controlled gaming became dated after a few years on the market.