I Don’t Understand Amiibos

I Don’t Understand Amiibos

A coupld of weeks ago Nintendo sent me an Amiibo to check out. Here’s where that Amiibo is right now: roughly a couple of feet from the child seat in my car. Before that it was lodged in my two year old’s mouth, being chewed upon, drooled on, thrown at the patio glass door with vigour. My Amiibo has been in the bath. My Amiibo has been dropped in a potty and covered in pee. My Amiibo has done everything an Amiibo could possibly dream of doing. He has been in nightmarish situations. He has done everything except be scanned into a Wii U controller.

To date, my Amiibo has yet to fulfil the task for which it has been designed.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I really don’t understand Amiibos.

Okay, I understand what they are. Perhaps understand is the wrong word. On some level I ‘understand’ why they’ve sold out in stores across Australia. I understand how they work. I even understand the appeal to an extent — the idea of collecting things, of creating this strange relationship with a toy that is connected to a video game you play.

What I’m really trying to say here is I don’t relate to it.

I don’t relate to the excitement people feel when discussing Amiibos. I don’t relate to adults rushing from store to store to buy them. I don’t relate to the stress and anxiety of adult people who feel the need to own these things.

On some level my inner voice is saying, ‘aren’t Amiibos toys for children?’ I hear myself thinking that. Me, a person who writes about video games for a living. A person who has long fought against the notion that video games are for kids. Me, a person who grew up with Nintendo and properly, unashamedly loves Nintendo games. Me, who has a pretty damn sexy Batman figure sitting on my desk alongside a couple of plushies. I’m looking at these Amiibos and thinking, what in the goddamn world is all the fuss about?

And if you happen to be one of those men or women seething at the Amiibo shortage, frantically trying to store up a collection – I’m not judging you. At least I’m trying not to judge you. We all like ‘things’. We all collect ‘things’.

But why Amiibos? They don’t strike me as anything different from all the other memorabilia you could spend your money on if you’re so inclined.

Yesterday I got a message from an old friend. He has a kid and he was desperately searching for Amiibos. I think of that guy, I think of him racing like a madman through Sydney looking for Amiibos and finding that they’ve been snaffled up in seconds by tech savvy adults he can’t compete with. Bought in bulk by eBaying opportunists. That makes me a little sad.

Particularly since I have one of those Amiibos he needs. Covered in bitemarks and drool, sitting in my car seat. He points at it every now and then. He’s learned to say ‘Mario’. Sometimes he even says ‘Let’s-a-go’. Maybe one day he’ll learn to scan the thing.

I feel as though I’m missing something. Am I missing something? What do Amiibos do? They allow players to store information about their character, unlock certain types of content on pre-existing video games. Not earth shattering content – things like a different outfit for Luigi in Mario Kart 8. Stuff like that. I can’t help but feel like Amiibos are superfluous toys that don’t really do anything.
Superfluous. That’s the word really. I don’t understand how these plastic toys have become so insanely essential to adults? I literally can’t imagine a situation where I would walk into a store and buy one of these things for myself.


    • But I think that’s the confusing part for a lot of people. They’re not action figures they’re statues. I totally understand the appeal of Skylanders style ‘it’s a toy that can also do stuff in a game’ products, and I get the fun of collectables, I just find it a bit weird that nobody seems to even try to make them come alive outside the game. There isn’t really any ‘playing’ with these things. It’s not like a GI Joe that could be downloaded into a GI Joe game.

      • Yeah, that too. Part of me likes the idea of replacing some of them with their figma version. And/or wishes they were like that instead. But then that would make them way more expensive 😛

      • My kids (well the 5 yr old anyway) loves playing with the skylanders – they have their own little wars on the carpet when he can’t play the game…. Swap force guys exploding into bits is his favourite….

        • I get that, I played with Monsters in my Pocket when I was a kid and Warhammer as a teenager, but it still feels like as kids toys they should be, I dunno, more toy-like and less collectable? I feel like kids are getting short changed with these. The gimmick is good enough that the people making the toys are able to coast by with adequate instead of awesome on the non-gimmick front.

  • At first I thought they were just toys but then I saw how they can be used in smash and think it’s kind of cool. It stills seems a bit limited though but it seems like a cool idea in smash training them up and having them copy your fighting style.

    • But that would traditionally just have been done in the software, why is the physical character required, that is the bit I don’t get.

      • If it were implemented in a game that worked well as a multiplayer title (not that smash doesn’t, but I mean a game that uses the amiibo training more) you could bring it to friends houses and scan it in. I guess you could say then though that it could just be an online account without needing you to carry the toy around though.

      • Consumerism and making money.

        What they “do” is not much but for a fan of statues and game paraphernalia, it’s a no brainer.

  • I bought one and don’t even use it with any games. They are reasonably good quality, cheap figures.

    • Yep!

      If someone said to me:

      I Don’t Understand Amiibos

      I’d say, “they are cute figures of some of your favourite characters!”

  • I bought a Captain Falcon amiibo because I’ve wanted a Captain Falcon figurine for forever. I think his design is slick and he looks great sitting next to my Gundam figures and Star Wars memorabilia. I haven’t even got a Wii U but I’m super excited to see how I can “train” the amiibo. I play a pretty mean Captain Falcon in Smash Bros, so I’m curious to see the extent of how the amiibo can perform with my training.

    The reason people are going crazy about buying them unfortunately is simply due to scarcity. Target in Westfield Parramatta only received one unit of several of the amiibos (rare ones are Wii Fit Trainer, Marth, Villager and Little Mac). I actually had to go into six different stores (in the city as well as Parra) before I found the JB Hi-Fi in Westfield Parra had 3 still left in stock.

      • I brought them over to my friend’s place to play with his Wii U. I’ll be buying a Wii U early next year. I’m moving out soon so I decided to hold off on buying one until I’m settled in tje new place.

  • I feel your pain, I’m an Nintendo fanboy from the days the original nes (I even have Mario decals across my two year olds bedroom and massive plush one-up next to the tv! ) but it seems like an obsessive sort of thing and if they really are great for content (which it appears they arn’t) how can Nintendo let them fall in short supply? Like, if I NEED THEM to get the most out my wii u and it’s software , shouldn’t they big highly available and not limited in release?!!

  • The limited release of some figures adds to the ‘need’ people have. If all figures were freely available in the shops all the time nobody would be frothing at the mouth.

      • I probably would too.
        Normally I would only buy limited edition figurines and they can be expensive. Not to mention trying to find places to store them all. The amiibos are a decent price, decent quality and not too big. The extra stuff they do is just a bonus.

        • Oh yeah, price was part of it too. At $18 each I was like ehhhhhhhhhhh maybe I’ll get one or two. But at $14 apiece, that sent me over the edge.

          Probably would’ve been happy to spring the full 18 each if they actually turned out like the prototype models in terms of quality 😛

    • Which is exactly why the limit them. So people who would be on the fence buy them in case they can’t find them later.

  • I don’t really think I understand them either. Actually I’m not sure even Nintendo understands them 😛

    For me, it’s partly that they’re just some really nice official Nintendo figurines. I don’t really go for much in the way of gaming merchandise, most of it is pretty crap and I don’t really have much desire to have a house full of random Mario and Zelda… things. But Captain Falcon and Little Mac are two of my most favourite characters in the Nintendo stable, so I’m pretty hyped that they’re actually getting official figures for once. Unfortunately that’s led to the whole “well I have this one. And this one. So I guess I’d want that one. And maybe that one. And… well I’ve got all these now, it’d be a shame to not have the others” thing. But I don’t really mind I guess, they’re nice to look at.

    I’ve never liked the idea of statues at all (poseable figurines at least “do” something). But these at least have the “function” part to them, even if it’s not entirely clear what use they have at all/future applications they may hold. They kind of remind me of e-cards in a way, and I’m a gigantic fan of e-cards so that sways my interest.

    At the moment it seems that most of the implementation is pretty throwaway, it’s mainly Smash that seems interesting. The idea of being able to train up a set of fighters and pit them against your friends to see whose reign supreme is pretty cool. I guess it’s like turning Smash Bros into Pokemon. Except now you get to properly be the trainer.

  • I bought a Pikachu and Fox McCloud to play with whenever my New 3DS XL gets NFC support enabled, but mostly out of curiosity – I want to play with that new feature on my spanky new handheld, and them being reasonably priced, not-terrible figures.

    I reckon I might pick up Bowser when he’s available, because Bowser is just a total boss, but none of the others interest me.

    I think the consumer delirium is most confusing to me, along with the desire to own every single one of them. I get having two or three of your favorites for whatever reason, but beyond that I’m puzzled. The most disappointing thing is hearing stories of people going into some stores (that somehow allow it) and buying up every single Amiibo, with the sole intention of throwing them on eBay with several hundred percent markup. Never forget, people are the reason we can’t have nice things.

    I think I’ll level mine up, set them at each other’s throats a few times, have a chuckle, and probably just put them on a shelf with all of my other figures.

    P.S. – to clarify – as Mark said, I’m not judging others for their enthusiasm either.

  • It’s marketing and a clever way to needlessly deprive people of their hard earned cash.

    No different to Disney Infinity or Skylanders.

    • Its a little different, to Skylanders at least. Some people would buy these just to use them as figurines. Not many would do that with Skylanders.

      • No doubt, because they’re classic characters. But the figures themselves are relatively average quality.

        I feel sorry for people with OCD when stuff like this comes out. The need to collect them all would be super strong.

        I’m surprised Pokemon never did this.

    • May be a lone opinion, however I much prefer the Amiibo design compared to either of the other toy collection franchises you mentioned. Suspect that this is my Nintendo bias coming out though 🙂

  • Embed DLC type content into a piece of plastic with as much appeal as your average McDonalds toy, but ensure that getting ALL the content means collecting ALL the toys, release before Christmas and give yourself a pat on the back; you’ve just created crack for kids.

  • You like Nintendo games? Seriously Mark. Up until very recently you had admitted not playing many this year.

    Amiibos in my opinion are designed primarily to make a multiplayer game like Smash, single player. You’re effectively playing against you’re ‘mate’ the amiibo. It gives you a reason to play as you become emotionally attached to the amiibo…..well that’s the idea.

    My son won’t play against the computer by himself. He only wants to play against the amiibo.

  • We’re just missing Marth 🙁 Have little Mac, villager, Wii Fit trainer… just need Marth damn it.

  • I can see the “need” for someone to buy every single skylanders toy, or every single Disney infinity toy, but Amiibos? Especially with the way they work with smash bros, I can’t see any reason having more than just your absolute favourites. I don’t have a WiiU (and probably won’t get one), but I am considering a new 3DS XL post-christmas, and if they work okay with the 3DS version of smash, I might pick an Amiibo up to train and play with, but only one. The choice of character will be an important one. I have no desire to collect any more than one.

  • I bought Luigi and I’ll buy Toon Link, but that’s as far as I’ll probably go. I never got into Skylanders or Disney Infinity or whatever so to me they are just cool looking figurines that can sit on my desk and occasionally activate things in games.

    The only compatible game I currently own is Mario Kart 8 so I haven’t been blown away by what these things can do (Besides becoming future clutter)

    • Only from below the knees, I believe. So supposedly everything within his boots.

      Though with each iteration they seem to be making them look less and less robotic than they once were.

  • I don’t understand them either.
    Some sort of physical DLC? You buy them, you get additional content yea?

  • I figure once we start seeing them used in more games for more than just unlocking stuff more people might start to “get” them. Also find it a little disappointing that there are people who want them just as figurines and have no intention to use them for Wii U. Wouldn’t be a big deal but it seems stocks are limited and I’m denied a game feature because someone wants something to put on a shelf or something.

    • The current ones only have enough space to store Smash Bros info on them. So not sure what else you can do besides unlock something with them. Basically if the game is not Smash Bros, all it can do is acknowledge that you have a particular one.

      • So far. I’d imagine once the new Star Fox or Zelda or Metroid or whatever comes out, we’ll start seeing more options. At the moment it’s not a big deal because it’s limited to like 3 games and only one of them saves data, but that will probably change.

    • Pretty much the same as people who buy sealed games and toys etc only to keep them that way and not actually use them.

  • I’m going to collect the Kirby amiibo’s (i.e. got Kirby, will get Dedede and Meta Knight) and any Pokemon ones (i.e. got Pikachu, looking forward to Lucario).

    Gotta limit myself otherwise I’ll end up buying them all 😛

  • Have you actually TRIED using it with the games that support it? I have The Villager and Kirby cause I like those to characters, but they also net me free stuff/mats for Hyrule Warriors, saving a bit of grind.

    Edit: trying to confirm but I think the age rating is 3+… You said your 2 Y.O. had it…?

  • Not much to inderstand. Of all the 3 major toy lines, the Amiibos are by FAR the most useless.

    They’re basically just official Nintendo collectible toys, which is the only reason I’ve bought them. They have no practical use in any games.

  • I’ve wanted official Smash Bros merch for ages, so I have to leap at these.

    I haven’t got some of the easy to get ones yet (Mario, Peach, DK) since with Xmas coming, I can at least say “Get me one of those if you’re stuck” to rellies, but still need to track down Little Mac and Pit, of the “Not likely to be used outside of smash, and so in limiited runs” set

  • The primary reason I want them all is to have a challenge in Smash Bros. My friends refuse to play any Smash Bros titles with me since in the past since I was ruthless (probably shouldn’t have been, but that’s the benefit of Hindsight), I destroyed all of them, the CPUs were no challenge and I didn’t know anything about tournaments, except one where I won.
    Now that I’m older I don’t want to go to tournaments for fear of being annihilated by a kid with hours upon hours to practice, but I still love the game and will be better than the CPUs in time. So I want a challenge and I want to be able to get a challenge from any character, not just the 1 or 2 that I happen to own.

    Currently I have Link, Samus, Mario, Peach and Pikachu. Luigi, Kirby and Yoshi are “coming” from online orders. Other than that I’m SOL since all the stores near myself and family sold out of the other characters. Every store has Mario, Peach and Pikachu with nothing else. Day 1 I only found 1 Link and 1 Samus and there doesn’t seem to be any reprieve. Hopefully in Feb I’ll be able to pick some more up.

    The worst part is the discontinuing of the 3 amiibos, so far, with our already undersupplied country. I’ll never be able to get those, whilst it is just another collection I’ll never finish, it sucks that it’s manufacturing demand overseas and but there was never supply here.

    That being said, I totally understand where you’re coming from. They are just figures that are okay looking and don’t offer much in most games.

  • Once again Mark has a knack of putting one’s thoughts into a neat and cohesive bit of writing.

    I don’t understand the little blighters either. I have almost every bit of Nintendo paraphernalia you can think of, both in a physical and digital sense. Some of these characters are as old as I am, and to see them in such a new and odd light is perplexing to me.

    I begin to appreciate them though, I have not bought any and do not see the need to buy any in the short-term. I heartily recommend the Wii U and 3DS as the best consoles currently out, and if people are buying these plastic trinkets to complement/augment the games they are buying, then I cannot hold that against them.

    Are there cynical ways to look at them? Absolutely. They are fictional characters, corporate mascots, time capsules from a different, perhaps naive era. Misfits that don’t deserve pride of place over perhaps more-deserving intellectual property.

    I didn’t see this coming. Their popularity, the confusion over them, what they are supposed to be.

    What they are right now is unknown. A ‘third pillar’ maybe? I am more interested in their trajectory in the months to come, it is actually a bit exciting to watch.

  • regarding amiibos, am i the only one annoyed that they stick some sort of RF blocking foil underneath the amiibo in its packaging, so you can’t actually use the amiibo unless you take it out of its box


  • I just get them as collectibles – I haven’t even taken them out of their boxes. I didn’t think I’d even get them, but the sadness in me must be fed with more material items….that’s how happiness is accomplished, right?

  • at the rate these things are selling out i think Nintendo did the whole skylanders and disney infinity thing better than both those companies put together, or they just sold out because they are a Nintendo product

  • It’s weird, I feel the same way.
    DISCLOSURE 1: I am a massive Nintendo geek, have been since 1990.
    DISCLOSURE 2: I have an unhealthy collection of Disney Infinity figures.
    But I just don’t feel any need to start collecting Amiibos. Weird, huh? I mean, with Disney Infinity, the toys are the purpose of the game. You cannot play the game without the toys. Amiibos just seem a bit useless, even though they seem like well-enough made figures. I’m sure there’s some super-huge Amiibo-focused game that Nintendo will announce at E3, but until then I just don’t see the point.

  • You’ve missed the point Mark. Amibo’s are funny little figures that are designed to print money. That’s it.

    • They already created physical DLC over a decade ago. See: e-reader and e-cards.

      They were friggen fantastic though. Turned SMB3 into a whole new game.

  • Just stick with your favourites if you only want a cheap collectible, getting all of them is only for hardcore people who want to be battle-ready for tournaments since the CPU level can go up to 50 meaning that they can become incredibly difficult compared to the basic CPUs which only go up to 9.

  • Stopped reading at the “Before that it was lodged in my two year old’s mouth, being chewed upon…” They sent the Amiibo to you, so you could review it. And what’s the first thing you do? You give to your two-year-old kid, to be destroyed!

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