We’re still recovering from the deluge of info we’ve received from January 14th Nintendo Direct, both from the good news and the bad. Sadly, as someone who has been looking forward to good amiibo news, I’m in the latter category, as some of my fears expressed in my past amiibo review have come true. Join me after the break as I discuss why recent news may be a reason to more concerned than excited about Nintendo’s expanding amiibo line-up.
I don’t want to be totally negative here. First of all, I was wrong about Nintendo not making further use of the figures, and I’m happy about that. I’m happiest about the Code Name: S.T.E.A.M use, even if I’m not really interested in trying it nor much of a Fire Emblem fan. However, the fact remains that the FE amiibos unlock additional characters, which is something pretty cool, on par with the Link amiibo for Hyrule Warriors. I don’t think I can say the same for the Kirby and the Rainbow Curse figures simply unlocking power-ups though. Still no word on how Yoshi’s Woolly World will use amiibo though, but we finally got word that Toad is getting his amiibo, but also seems fairly useless compared to the others (though I must admit I haven’t played Captain Toad since E3 2014).
Speaking of Toad and new amiibo, I have to say that I’m still excited about Ness from Earthbound finally getting some love via an amiibo. However, new versions of Mario characters are just unnecessary. Remember, the draw of amiibo were supposed to be their ability to be useful across several games. I hate to say it, but I still don’t get that feeling very well for the most part. Many amiibo are usually fodder for another game or may have a small but unique bonus in one other game. It’s still odd to feel like I would have no use for Mario franchise characters, and the Pokemon ones equally feel unuseful outside of Smash. Those are huge franchises with lots of characters people can identify, but which don’t feel like they’re well used.
However, this brings us to Mario Party 10 and the general problem:
If you didn’t catch the tiny print, it’s a reminder that these figures only have enough storage for a single game, meaning you may have to delete your Smash amiibo fighters to make use of some of the Mario Party 10 amiibo features.
Now, before we come to blows, let’s be fair: Nintendo did warn the public that the figures would only hold room for data from one game in their Amiibo FAQ at launch. That takes guts, even if most people purchasing the figures most likely won’t see it and possibly get angrier when they find that, in fact, there was a warning about this situation occurring. However, as Kotaku mentions and I predicted, this is where we start to have issues. At the least, it’s hard not to say that Nintendo was short sighted about this decision. Conversely though, one might also argue that this is intentional, and Nintendo is simply offering the read-only bonuses as an excuse to make their “toys” seem more useful than similar products which require you to buy an endless supply of glorified DLC.
This isn’t even considering the value of their in-game use. Amiibo unlock a separate mode, and can have power-ups in this mode. Whether or not people feel justified in buying an(other) Amiibo to take advantage of this is a question we can’t answer yet, but truthfully, I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen or heard so far. I must admit that this does make Toad seem like the most useful Mario franchise amiibo so far, since he can’t have Smash data, but again, I’m not sure I’m sold on his use in Captain Toad.
However, I don’t just want to sit and judge Nintendo and move on. I still believe in the company but, oddly enough, I still feel third parties are actually making better use of the tech than Nintendo. Hyrule Warriors and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M both feel like they add something cool and unique to their game. Dressing up like Captain Falcon’s kind of cool in Mario Kart, but it’s a one time deal. The figure then sits around not doing anything unless I’m playing Smash. I hate dailies, but I must admit that I try to use my amiiob with HW everyday. Using Amiibo to farm parts for me in Smash really isn’t much better.
So, my suggestions for Nintendo? First, sell us just the chip and lower the price. Make it an attachment for Amiibo figure bases or something if you’re really keen on selling us different versions of toys. I don’t need two Mario, but if I do get two, I don’t want to have to remember which one goes to which game.
Oddly enough, I’m saying increase the data storage as number two. If the amiibo chips cost me, say, $3, I might have a much harder time arguing their value, especially if Nintendo doesn’t want to do anything more than add skins to their games for us to unlock or add customizable content that feels broken (yes, amiibo Smash fighters feel quite overpowered at times). If you want your games to write data, and you’re intent on charging me for a toy I may not want, at least give me the option to have one with increased data.
So, next idea? Make more interesting use of the technology! I like the idea of the Smash fighters, but they just felt a bit too powerful. They’re fun for a bit, but after awhile, I just keep remembering I’m playing AI instead of real people. For a multiplayer game, that just makes me feel lonely, even when I’m playing with a real person against the amiibo(s).
I’ll keep this short, but let’s jusst address data writing overall: keep it unique, make it important, but don’t do a lot of it. This is the experimental part of Amiibo that I’m sure Nintendo can pull off if they keep trying, but for now, let’s stick with simple monetization that (at least for me) can satisfy customers and a corporation’s wallet.
What about adding custom parts in various games? Perhaps hats, like Team Fortress 2. The 3DS already has that down, and with the new 3DS including amiibo support (which us normal 3DS owners have to wait for), we’re missing out on some good hat potential. I mean really, who here doesn’t want their Mii wearing a Mega-Man helmet or Pac-Man head?
The characters could also be used to give new life to currently released games. Let’s have Charizard in Mario Kart 8. Let Sonic join Mario Party. Give Kirby Ness’ PSI Rockin’. Allow us to unlock Mario overalls in Pokemon X/Y. Let’s unlock Donkey Kong in New Super Mario Bros Wii U and have Marth in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The tiny little bonuses we’re getting right now are quite underwhelming. Nintendo has a great idea, but I just feel like they could milk it better while also making fans happy.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “That’d cost too much!” Well, let’s think of it this way: almost 2 amiibos were sold for each copy of Smash Bros Wii U. That means, on average, people “only” bought 2 amiibos. You’ve got 18 figures out and more on the way, and the Toad amiibo is Nintendo testing how well an amiibo can sell without being used in Smash. We could be on the cusp of something great, if Nintendo really wanted to surprise us. We’ve shown we love cross overs and cameos, so why not let us buy more?
If people are sitting on physical downloadable content but lack the game, they may decide to buy the game to access their content. Trust me: if I could bring Ness into a Donkey Kong game, I’d be much more interested in playing it. If Toad suddenly became a fighter for Smash, you bet I’d buy that figure. If my Mega-Man loving friends could have a Mega-Man helmet in MK8, give Kirby his blaster in Rainbow Curse, and have a Mega-Man themed board in MP10, they might even buy a Wii U. Maybe it sounds like a dream, but I’m sure there’s some business guy out there hoping Nintendo will at least take advantage of an idea like this for Nintendo’s own franchises and characters. It’s an easy way to get people to buy more games and figures. It’s a new year and Nintendo’s full of surprises. Let’s hope that we get some nice ones for our amiibos.