Nintendo fans have Amiibo fever, and sometimes fevers can induce hallucinations. Amiibo fans recently started worshipping a customer service representative named Esteban. For a time, he became their prophet.
It's understandable that desperate Amiibo fans would put their hopes in a mysterious figure like Esteban, as ridiculous as that sounds. Amiibos are hot commodities that Nintendo is aggressively marketing to gamers and collectors around the world, and the coolest ones are hard to come by. Buying your favourite Amiibo is not as simple as adding Toon Link to your cart, and calling it a day. It's a hustle, and frustration is rampant. Amiibo hunters spend their time refreshing web pages, hoping Target'swebsite doesn't crash before their pre-order goes through.
When GameStop opened up pre-orders for the latest Amiibos last week, not only did its website go down, the registers at GameStop's stores didn't work for the better part of an hour. Nintendo has struggled to make money the last few years, a change from the unbelievable highs of the DS and Wii, but Amiibos have become a genuine phenomenon among Nintendo diehards.
Combine that with the Internet's love of a joke, and you can explain the rise of mysterious Esteban.
Amazon doesn't have any exclusive Amiibos, but it's another place to buy them, if you're looking to add to a collection, buy one for a friend, or toss some extras on eBay. (Gasp!) It hasn't been clear, however, when Amazon pre-orders would go live. People already know where the Amiibos will live on Amazon's store, but as of right now, it's impossible to add them to your online cart.
Hoping to find out more, users started pestering Amazon customer service representatives.
It's unclear who posted the original image now, thanks to the magic of deleted posts, but a user on /r/amiibo/ shared a lengthy conversation he found on another website with an Amazon representative named...Esteban.
( A user named Souls88 has tried to take credit, but he hasn't gotten back to me.)
To extract anything he can from Esteban, he goes for a mixture of jokes and desperation. "I haven't slept in three days." "I've been basically glued to my computer since Thursday afternoon." "I moved my damn microwave upstairs so I can eat up here."
I've actually run into some exceptionally friendly Amazon representatives before, so while the casual language used by "Esteban" is a little strange, it's not an immediate red flag.
The user begs Esteban for some details, hoping to make his Amiibo addiction easier to manage. After a brief pause, Esteban hands it over.
According to Esteban, Amiibo pre-orders would go live on April 9 at 12:00 pm PST.
When the conversation was posted to reddit, there was a mixture of confusion, speculation, and apprehension. Additionally, people wondered why this user was ratting out a friendly employee!
It actually took me a while to find the original, undoctored conversation. Every other version of the conversation with Esteban that I found actually looked like this, with his name blurred out:
Amiibo fans took all of this seriously enough that wherever this conversation was posted, the blurred version was what appeared. Even though people constantly whispered about Esteban, if the image went viral and found its way elsewhere on the Internet, at least the name was blurred.
This all took a turn when another user allegedly decided to have a chat with Amazon, as well.
If you were a believer, this was secondary confirmation of the time Esteban mentioned. In other words, Yves was a disciple of Esteban, passing on the good word about Amiibo pre-orders.
The legend of Esteban was growing, and he was amassing new followers, both in and outside of Amazon. But he wasn't the lone prophet. There were...others. Different users supposedly spoke with Amazon reps, who said pre-orders wouldn't begin until much latter: April 17. Who was telling the truth? Were users simply trying to throw others off the trail that Esteban had left?
A war words, faith, and customer service representatives was fully underway. Who to believe?
All Amiibo fans could do was be patient, and, as the hashtag suggests, trust in Esteban.
(As far as I can tell, no one actually tweeted into the #trustinesteban hash tag.)
Even though the Esteban myth wasn't given much credence when it was first posted, it took hold, and became regularly referenced in the daily threads updating on Amiibo availability.
One day, it was this:
Esteban's prophecy states: Today Amazon US Wave 4 at 12pm Pacific (3PM Eastern).
Another day, it was this:
Even the Miiverse was getting into it.
As the pre-order hour approached, conspiracy theories showed up. If Esteban had spilled the beans, allowing thousands of Amiibo fans to point their web browsers at Amazon in advance, would Amazon consider moving back the pre-order date to avoid a GameStop-like situation?
It's easy to paint Esteban as the natural evolution of an Internet joke to a tired meme, but desperate for anything to make acquiring a precious Amiibo easier, Esteban was taken seriously.
There was no way to know one way or the other, really. It's not ridiculous to think an Amazon representative could have access to product availability and accidentally spill too much. At least, it's plausible enough for people endlessly musing about Amiibos on the Internet to obsess over.
Eventually, there was nothing to do but patiently wait. Would pre-orders go live on Thursday, April 9 at 12:00pm PST, as Esteban predicted?
In the minutes leading up to Esteban's prediction, social media went wild. Even if you thought Esteban was fake, a meme, or an Amazon representative full of shit, you were at your computer. Worst case, you waste a few minutes refreshing a browser. Best case, Esteban really is a prophet, and you're about to (hopefully) pre-order some new Amiibos. The mood was playful.
Whether Esteban is correct about wave 4 preorders on Amazon at 3pm or not, we as amiigos, will continue to keep calm and Esteb-on. #amiibo
— Ray Strazdas (@RayStrazdas) April 9, 2015
— Kyle, The Love Bomb (@TD_Kyle) April 9, 2015
As noon PST rolled around, all was revealed: Esteban was wrong, a false prophet. Pre-orders at Amazon did not go live, and the followers of Esteban were forced to reckon with truth.
Esteban, why have you forsaken us? #amiibo
— MFCH (@MFCH) April 9, 2015
Esteban..... I'm officially putting a bounty on your head. #amiibo
— Dare-Gray (@GrayGreenwell) April 9, 2015
Poor Esteban. The ruse was over. As one NeoGAF poster put it:
It seems Amazon was aware of what was happening, eventually tweeting out this image:
Meet Esteban. pic.twitter.com/9ulGP4g2Qm
— Amazon Video Games (@amazongames) April 9, 2015
The story of Esteban found its natural conclusion: a (pretty funny) corporate tweet.
Amazon pre-orders for the next Amiibos still aren't live yet, though. When will they? Who knows. In the absence of useful information, people are bugging Amazon representatives again.
All hail the new prophet, Shan-neal.