My big takeaways concerning amiibo

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[Goofierbrute has been to hell and back to come to a levelheaded conclusion for amiibo. It could have been handled better but at the end of the day, it’s about enjoying the fanservice of Nintendo. Once I got Mega Man, I was pretty much set for life. Got your own experiences to share? Start a blog! -Striderhoang]

Before I started typing this up, I performed the daily ritual I started a few days ago of checking Amazon to see what the current price would be for a Japanese Lucina amiibo. Lucina is one of my three mains in Super Smash Bros. (though I use Little Mac and Rosalina more), and I liked her in Fire Emblem Awakening, so to have an amiibo of her on my shelf would be great.

Of course, it won’t be easy, as the number of Japanese importers that sell the Ylissean princess grows smaller by the day, and the prices get higher and higher by the day. The cheapest price was $45, which is roughly the same amount as this Lucina figma that I pre-ordered from Amiami. Armed with this knowledge and the fact that I don’t want to spend roughly half of the Amazon gift card I got for my birthday on a figure that costs much less, ultimately I decide against putting down a pre-order today. But much like the Siren of Greek mythology, the amiibo calls to me with its songs and hypnotic voice, tempting me to pay an unreasonable price for a figure that could probably pass for a high quality McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. It didn’t lure me in today, but someday it will; this is the hold that amiibo has on me.

If you had told me around this time last year that I would be spending my time trying to collect these figures of various Nintendo characters, I would have laughed it off before wondering how the hell you got into my house. I love Nintendo, but not enough to put down a $12.99 for a plastic figure. At least, that’s what I thought at first. But after pre-ordering Little Mac from GameStop as a Christmas gift to myself just minutes before he sold out, it quickly became apparent that I couldn’t just have one of these. Soon I was scouring various malls and online sites, picking up the characters that I could, and before long I had acquired a small collection of amiibo. Nothing too big, but much bigger than what I had thought I was going to get. See that image up above? That’s an actual picture of the amiibo I’ve bought over the past months, the crown jewel being that Rosalina amiibo that took me forever to get. It doesn’t even include the Toad amiibo I got still in its original packaging even though I hate Toad, nor does it include ones that I’ll be getting later, like Mega Man, Kirby and/or King Dedede, that Yarn Yoshi, and the aforementioned Lucina. So yeah, I guess you can say I’m addicted to amiibo collecting, and unless something drastic happens, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

However, as much as I love Nintendo and collecting amiibo, it’s not enough to blind me from the fact that there are a lot of important things about amiibo that I feel people aren’t paying attention to. Some of it is good, some of it is quite bad, but here are some of my big takeaways concerning amiibo.

 

Takeaway Number 1: Nintendo was not prepared for amiibo’s success, and played it safe, resulting in the situation we’re in now.

I know it sounds pretty obvious at this point, but it still needs to be said: Nintendo was woefully unprepared for amiibo catching on as it did. It feels like Nintendo didn’t think the idea would catch on and only did it because Skylanders and Disney Infinity were huge successes. Hence why instead of making a full blown game that requires these figures like Activision and Disney did, they made it so that you can use amiibo to unlock costumes or hidden optional characters in already existing games (with various degrees of success, I might add). It’s also this reason why amiibo for characters like Mario and Pikachu were made so abundant, since those characters are more known than Villager, Wii Fit Trainer, or Marth to name a few. From a business perspective, that makes sense, since if Nintendo makes a bunch of these amiibo and they don’t sell well, they’re left holding the bag. Where they screwed up however, was making the terrible decision of making the rare amiibos even more rare by making them retailer exclusive, so what you end up with is a situation where by demand far outpaces supply and rare amiibo are made even harder to find, resulting in scalpers creating a black market where rare amiibo can go for over 200% of what they’re actually worth. This situation is made even worse by the fact that Nintendo (at least here in the States) has done a terrible job of conveying status updates on amiibo. Hell, if it wasn’t for Destructoid’s own Chris Carter and various websites, I wouldn’t have any idea about who’s rare or who I’ll be able to grab.

Now to be fair, Nintendo seem to be wising up a bit more since the early months of the amiibo craze (the recent GameStop blackout notwithstanding). Marth, one of the more rare amiibo, is getting a reprint this May for example, hopefully alleviating some of the outrageous prices for unopened copies, even if it’s for a few weeks. Not only that, but Nintendo also plans on releasing cards that function the same way as amiibo (so that way you aren’t locked out of in game content because you don’t have a rare amiibo), and Yarn Yoshi comes in multiple varieties as opposed to one (though I imagine it’s still going to be hard to find). None of this makes up for the fact that Nintendo dropped the ball hard on amiibo distribution and failed to communicate it effectively to people, but every little bit helps.

Takeaway Number 2: Love it or hate it, amiibo is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Another obvious point I know, but despite a lot of the pre-order shenanigans, amiibo are still selling really well for Nintendo. Like selling 5.7 million as of December of 2014 well (they released a month earlier than that). And with that much money being made, it’s no wonder that Nintendo’s last Direct was dedicated to amiibo, and I wouldn’t be surprised if its E3 presentation is dedicated to them as well. Granted, I imagine those figures don’t say how many of those purchases were the numerous scalpers who bought them or people like me who imported them from other parts of the world where amiibo is a little more common. Still, at least it’s nice that Nintendo is making a nice bit of money out of this, which they can use to hopefully make the new Zelda game even more awesome. Of course, the one big question everyone who hasn’t taken the plunge keeps asking themselves is this: are amiibo really worth it? The answer to that question segues perfectly into my next takeaway, which is:

Takeaway Number 3: I don’t think I can recommend amiibo to new people, nor do I blame collectors who are currently calling it quits.

I’ve been going back and forth for awhile about whether or not I would recommend amiibo to friends and family with young kids. But as much as I like them, I can’t in good conscience recommend amiibo to people who aren’t already aware of it, at least for now. Besides the fact that the in-game support for amiibo is all over the place, ranging from awesome like Smash 4 and Code Name S.T.E.A.M. to terrible like Mario Kart 8, the aforementioned shortages, in-store exclusives, and Nintendo just screwing this up, it can be incredibly overwhelming. I mean, yeah characters like Mario, Pikachu, and even Sonic are pretty easy to find, but say your kid liked Animal Crossing, or you’re nostalgic for Earthbound or Punch-Out!! and you found out they had figures of these characters from your childhood. You want them? Well, too bad, you’re out of luck unless you’re willing to import from Japan and pay upwards of $50 for one; heck even popular franchises like Mario and Pokémon aren’t safe from this either, as characters like Rosalina and Greninja have also fallen victim to this. Long story short, unless you’re willing to invest a lot of time and money to get into amiibo, it isn’t worth it.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, you have people who are already in deep collecting amiibo who are dropping out too because they can’t handle how poorly this has been screwed up by Nintendo. For example, Game Informer Associate Editor Kimberly Wallace wrote a rather nice piece on Game Informer’s website talking about how she got into amiibo. However, after the GameStop meltdown two weeks ago, she went on Twitter to proclaim she’s given up on amiibo, saying “I love Earthbound and Fire Emblem, but I don’t need that stress.” Hitting a little closer to home, former Destructoid Community Play Manager and amiibo enthusiast Bill Platt (a.k.a ChillyBilly) also threw his hands in disgust after Amiibogeddon 2015, and this coming from one of the biggest amiibo fans I can think of. These are just two examples, but there are a ton more I can think of, as I’ve had many friends do the same exact thing. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I bought all of my amiibo with various gift cards that I’ve gotten over the last several months, I’d probably be one of those of people throwing up my hands and backing out now. Though at the rate things are going, it might be sooner rather than later.

 

Takeaway Number 4: Most major retailers have messed up during this whole amiibo situation. Horribly.

 Toys”R”Us randomly cancelled multiple pre-orders of Lucario; twice. Target had the brilliant idea of opening pre-orders for Rosalina for the US in the middle of the night. And just recently, GameStop’s entire system went down the day after April Fool’s Day because everyone decided to get in at the same time.  These are just a handful of examples of many big retailers dropping the ball when it comes to the handling of amiibo, and how they’ve handled this so far makes me wonder if I should shop at any of these places in the future. I know that sounds petty, but these are multi-billion dollar corporations and they’re making amateur mistakes. Now to be fair, Nintendo is the one responsible for the distribution of various amiibo, and it’s the one that created a lot of these retailer exclusive deals. But at the same time, it could have been handled better than what’s happened so far, and it’s not like Reggie went to these companies and forced them to sign the deal (or maybe they did, I don’t know). In any case, while I don’t put the entire blame on Target, Best Buy, Toys”R”Us, etc., their actions aren’t helping the situation either.

Interestingly enough, do you know the one retailer who’s been doing it right in my book, outside of Amazon? Walmart. Yes that Walmart. The same Walmart that has been criticized by numerous groups for its practices, a website dedicated to the various strange individuals who frequent the stores, and is generally the first company people think of when they have to name an “evil” corporation has been doing amiibo right. Granted, I don’t frequent Walmart and your experience may vary, but for the most part the few times I’ve had to get amiibo from them has been a pretty pleasant experience. Hell, even the Gold Mario amiibo, as ridiculous as that got, was handled pretty well all things considered. Yeah, I’m just as shocked about writing this as you are reading it.

Takeaway Number 5: I learned an important lesson about importing thanks to amiibo.

Story time everybody! So after Target dun goofed with Rosalina pre-orders here in the States, I knew that as much I loathed doing so, the only way I would get my Rosalina would be through importing. After scouring Amazon, I ordered a Japanese Rosalina & Luma amiibo (named Rosetta & Chiko) from the first seller I found in early January. This was a mistake. It was expected to release in late January and arrive between late February and mid March, and despite not giving me a tracking number, I wasn’t too worried. Not long after I pre-ordered it, I found the same Rosalina from a different seller, which cost less than the first one I got and was covered by Amazon, which meant I could track the package. I bought it and a few days later I had myself a Rosalina amiibo, and possibly another one on the way. I never got the original one I ordered back in January, and after messaging the first seller (it took awhile for them to get back to me), I got a tracking number and found out that it had been in customs since late January but had to be sent back because according to the seller I had given them a fraudulent address. Which wasn’t true since the address I gave them was the same one I’ve been using for years and no problem ever showed up. Ultimately, I told them I wasn’t happy with their service, got a refund, and vowed never to buy anything from that seller again… but not before I had to call Amazon Customer Service because said seller was harassing me because I didn’t give them a perfect score (they even addressed me by my first and last name, which I never gave them).

I should probably add that while it sucked I never got it, the original amiibo I pre-ordered didn’t cost me a penny since I used a giftcard to buy it. Regardless, I learned a valuable lesson of importing and dealing with third-party sellers on Amazon, which is don’t order from the first one you see and to always do your research before hand. An obvious lesson I know, and this whole thing is totally my fault and could have been avoided, but an important lesson nonetheless and one that I doubt I’ll forget anytime soon.

Takeaway Number 6: Despite everything that’s happened, I’m still glad amiibo exist.

Yeah, you heard me. Even with the mismanagement, the scalpers taking over, and the general uselessness outside of sitting on my shelf, I’m happy amiibo exist. Besides the fact that they’re doing well for Nintendo sales wise (which means more money for the big N to put back into the company), the biggest strength that amiibo have going for them is that it’s a chance for characters who aren’t as popular to shine and potential gain a new audience. Think about it: outside of figmas for Fire Emblem and the occasional toy from Zelda, you don’t really see much merchandise for Nintendo’s franchises that aren’t Mario and Pokémon. It’s not much, and I do feel that this whole amiibo situation could be handled much, much, MUCH better, but at the end of the day, the fact that I can go out and show my support by getting figures of characters from franchises like Punch-Out!!Earthbound, and Fire Emblem is a fantastic proposition, and I hope Nintendo gets this mess sorted out soon.

At the end of the day, I still love Nintendo and I’m still hyped for E3. It makes some of the best games out there, and is one of the few companies that can instill in me a sense of childlike wonder and joy. At the same time, Nintendo isn’t perfect and its handling of amiibo these last few months is sobering proof of that. I really hope it turns this around in the coming months, because as I said despite my bitching in this blog, I’m really glad amiibo exist and would love to give my money to Nintendo for them. It’s just as time goes on, it’s becoming a really hard pill for a lot of people to swallow. And that’s the real shame of all of this.

GoofierBrute