The first wave of Nintendo’s toy-to-game Amiibo figures are set to launch this Friday, November 21. Promising additional functionality between a selection of Nintendo games, the Amiibo figures are releasing alongside Nintendo’s big ticket entry this holiday (and largest supporter of Amiibo figures) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
In concept, the idea of Nintendo creating a Skylanders / Disney Infinity themed figure sounds like an easy win. They have a huge library of games, some of the most iconic video game characters exclusive to their consoles and have always been at the forefront of innovation in world of gaming.
But I am extremely skeptical whether Amiibos will be a boon for Nintendo.
The Amiibos pair fairly well with Super Smash Bros., the main game that they were designed for. The game interacts with the figures by allowing the ability to train an AI controlled version of the character in game. A sort-of enhanced version of their new custom character feature, Amiibos supplement that by allowing for that created character to be modified, trained and stored on the Amiibo figure. This figure can then be taken to other consoles and used on the systems of friends.
Unfortunately, Super Smash Bros. is the only game that can store information on the Amiibos. Any other game that touts Amiibo functionality is merely recognizing the figure and unlocking in game items in a sort of physical DLC type of way. Sure you get a little something for your trouble, but not nearly to the extent that Super Smash Bros. receives. It is frustrating to think that Nintendo has these great little figures in their hands and all that they can muster up is a little support for a bonus feature in the main game, and bonus unlocks for other games.
But the worst part is that what everybody wants out of the Amiibos, a game much like Disney Infinity’s Toy Box feature, is something I fear will never happen. The Toy Box feature is a fantastic feature in Disney Infinity that allows for players to pop their Infinity figure onto the game’s base and every figure that they have can interact with each other in a sandbox environment in their game. You can have Donald Duck running around with Thor and Captain Jack Sparrow while Lightning McQueen is racing in the background.
The way Nintendo is handling Amiibos, we might never see that game. You see, for Infinity when you purchase a character in the store, you’re essentially adding it into your game. This would be the only way to get Stitch into your game, is to have the figure to place on the base. For Nintendo games, this isn’t the case. For Super Smash Bros., all the characters that have figures are already present in the game. You’re just paying for the ability to create the trained Amiibo custom character (and for a nice figure to put on your desk). Maybe one day Nintendo will consider using Amiibos as a form of physical DLC by creating a Solid Snake figure that will pop him (as rightly should be) back into Super Smash Bros.
Even worse is the idea that I sincerely doubt that Nintendo is remotely close to creating a Toy Box styled game. I mean you’re seriously talking about the company who, when working with Disney on Wreck-it-Ralph, was so hyper specific about Bowser’s cameo, that they complained about how he was holding his cup of coffee. They are a company that has been historically not particularly fond of user-created content and have never created a true sandbox style game.
Which is sad really. They have all the tools to do so. An amazing catalog of games and characters to choose from and certainly the development pedigree to create a fantastic playroom where all their characters can co-exist. It’s what all Nintendo fans want. It’s why Super Smash Bros. is so popular. Gamers want to settle those age old arguments of who would win in a fight, Mario or Link. It’s why the new DLC pack for Mario Kart 8 is such a big deal. Gamers want the freedom to play with their toys, as their imagination sees fit.
And for a company with such a history of embracing imaginative innovation as Nintendo, it truly would be a missed opportunity.