My Hate Letter to Amiibo

Dear Amiibo,

I know you’ve suffered a loss in the family recently (Satoru Iwata RIP), so I’m a little reticent to bring this up now. But damn it, I have to get this out of my system.

Amiibo, I hate you.

I wish you’d go away and never return. And this is not a baseless hate. Allow me to explain.

First, let me go back to 2011. A little thing called Skylanders launched. It was a kid-marketed action/platform game by Activision, stemming from the once-popular purple dragon named Spyro. For about $90, you got the game, a few plastic statues, and a base platform that identified the statues and brought them into the game as playable characters. To tell you the truth, $60 is still a lot of money for a game to me – and likely for most people, especially parents. Now you’ve got this gimmick costing even more, and who-knows-how-many plastic figures to entice you? Think of the parents every time they go to Target, having little Sabrina and little Jordan begging for another hunk of plastic.

I never bit on the game or its subsequent sequels. But I’d go to friends’ houses, and see that scanning base and numerous figures crowding their coffee tables. These were grown-ass adults. Game journalists – which means at least they probably got the stuff for free from Activision. But to me, there’s no bigger coolness vacuums than a bunch of unrecognized cartoony figures strewn about prominent living-room real estate. And for what? So you can play as rock dude or water crab in a mediocre video game you’ve already abandoned?

skylanders

Tears or dollar signs – you choose. But the one named Drill Sergeant made me chuckle.

At least with Rock Band and Guitar Hero instruments, you could tuck them in a corner or closet – not to mention them being a vital part to a game that was infinitely replayable. Imagine needing to purchase a statue of a band’s lead singer or guitarist, then scanning it on a stage-shaped pedestal every time you wanted to play a new Rock Band song. Actually, that would be way cooler than Skylanders, and hopefully I didn’t just give Activision a new idea for Guitar Hero Live.

So, Skylanders was lame. But that’s essentially the business model you copied, Amiibo! Sure, your characters are more widely recognized, but so were Disney Infinity‘s. They’re just as deserving of my vitriol, but at least they beat you by a year. Anytime I try to browse video games on Amazon or Best Buy, all you damn figures crowd the results. It’s like a 50/50 split, actual games to crummy plastic toy things. And if I go to a brick-and-mortar store’s game section, you’re a big reason why actual software sections are so small. Is that completely your fault, Amiibo? No, these retailers should really organize better. But still, it’s a reasonable reason to hate you.

You do have one advantage over the others, Amiibo: You use the Wii U control pad or the New 3DS as your scanner instead of requiring a dedicated base –  meaning coffee tables have room for an additional coaster or piece of discarded junkmail. You get a cookie for that. But only oatmeal raisin, so don’t get too excited.

Awww, he's sitting!

Awww, he’s sitting!

What else separates you? “We work with several games,” you say. Okay, I’ll humor you. Let’s investigate the Kirby Amiibo, a pretty popular character. It works with 7 games, which is certainly a much bigger number than one. They are Super Smash Wii U, Super Smash Bros 3DS, Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, Mario Party 10, Captain Toad, and Kirby & the Rainbow Curse. Here’s what the Kirby Amiibo does with each game:
Super Smash: Kirby is already playable in Super Smash, of course. So, in both versions of the game, you use your Amiibo to make “the ultimate sidekick,” leveling it up and adjusting its stats. That doesn’t sound very cool. And honestly, it’s very reminiscent of an included feature in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, which came out in 2003 on the PlayStation 2!
Mario Kart 8: You can dress your Mii driver up like Kirby – if you consider a giant Kirby on your head a costume. Next.
Hyrule Warriors: Tapping Kirby once a day gives you “a weapon rated 3 stars or lower, a rupee bonus or crafting material bonus.” So a tiny power-up. Next.
Mario Party 10: First, let me state Mario Party is close to if not the worst. But you should fix that, right Amiibo? Kirby is one of the figures that “open Scratch Bonus and Mario Party Points.” Uh-huh…
Captain Toad: Kirby gives you a one-up mushroom. Woohoo! You got yourself an extra life, son! Wow, I take back what I said about Super Smash’s sidekick thing being weak.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse: This is a game starring only Kirby. So what does scanning the titular character’s $13 plastic model give you? You can use Star Dash whenever you want – not just upon collecting 100 stars. That’s it.

Now he's sitting on someone's head. Oh shit, can they breathe? Get him off!!!

Now he’s sitting on someone’s head. Oh shit, can they breathe? Get him off!!!

So, in essence, Amiibo, you’re a shitty power-up dispenser dressed up as a pricey artistic trinket. None of the above “features” is anything that couldn’t have been included for free with the retail version of the game. They’re worse than most codes. Remember when games had codes? That were free? It’s weird how many gamers sob and scream over being asked to pay for “on-disc DLC” in games, but they’ll clamor like dogs over dropped food to buy one of you. “Oh, this one is rare!” “Oh, this one is a Babbage’s exclusive!” “Here, take my money which could have alternatively bought me a large 2-topping pizza or best-selling blu-Ray or ironic-message t-shirt!”

“Buy me instead, Murph. Oh, come on Murph! MURPH?!”

And that’s assuming you were purchased at retail and not on eBay, where that $13 price is easily doubled or tripled. Amiibo, you know as well as I do that as soon as people get a whiff that something is rare, they buy it up whether they’re interested or not, solely to milk actual fans of as much money as possible. Remember Wii Balance Board? I do; I met a dude in a Carl’s Jr. parking lot to buy one for $30 over retail. Then I played it like twice.

And Amiibo, you don’t even move! You can’t be played with. You just sit there in your pose, often with awkward columns holding you in place. I mean, I loved collecting trophies in Super Smash Bros. Melee. But you, Amiibo? You have to be put somewhere. You will gather dust and clutter a shelf and sap the last remaining drops of coolness from anyone who engages in your weird sub-hobby. Hell, most people probably won’t even take you out of the package, meaning you’re even bulkier!

I also hate what you mean to Nintendo, a company going through financial and critical struggles. Nintendo has faced adversity in the past, but has had divisions that kept it afloat. Handheld business made up for slumping console sales. Pokémon carried the software-sales load many a time. But if you end up being a big money-maker for Nintendo, Amiibo, that means we’re destined for more of you. If Kirby is only good for a one-up in the games he’s compatible with, what bonuses will the theoretical Amiibo for Lakitu or Excitebike or Sidehopper offer?

Remember me? From Metroid? Buy my plastic idol before it sells out, kids!

Remember me? From Metroid? Buy my plastic idol before it sells out, kids!

So please go away, Amiibo. I’m hoping your fans are the vocal minority who will quickly forget about you like senior citizens did with Wii as soon as Judge Judy came on. Because I hate you.

Sincerely,
Justin Leeper

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6 thoughts on “My Hate Letter to Amiibo

  1. Christian played Skylanders when it was out, and it was a fun game with great voice acting and a followable story. We still have a box full of Skylanders in the closet, but they were more than worth it. Grace has been into Disney Infinity, but we get them used at Gamestop for a fraction of what they cost new, and the 1.0 and 2.0 versions of the game are both fun. Grace likes to build with the Toybox function and she seems to have fun.

    But Disney owns enough character properties (Marvel, Pixar, the Muppets, and Star Wars) to make a fun game. Nintendo just doesn’t have enough depth.

    Warner Bros. is entering the field this fall with a game called Lego Dimensions with characters from the Lego Movie, DC Comics, Lord of the Rings and a few new licenses that have never existed as Lego toys before (at least not at retail) like Back to the Future, Wizard of Oz and Doctor Who. Again, the toys are a similar price point to other brands ($15 for basic figures, $30 for deluxe) but not only do you get the video game characters, but you also get unique Lego minifigs. I’ve wanted a Lego K9 from Doctor Who since Underground Toys had the Doctor Who building set license. I will gladly pay $15 for a set that includes K9, a minifig of the new Doctor, and a TARDIS. I’m not going to pay $15 for a Back to the Future minifig set, because it’s not worth it to me.

    • I hadn’t even thought about the LEGO derivative. Great, more stock clogging online and B&M marketplaces. If retailers got their heads on straight and organized them elsewhere, it wouldn’t be as annoying.
      I get it: Kids like stuff they know, and adults buy stuff they know kids know. Hey, this thing goes with that thing they have. That’s basically what the LEGO business model has been past “bucket of blocks.” But it just seems like the consumer gets a raw deal. And when Nintendo starts doing it without adding any real value, it’s bad for the industry.

  2. As a big Nintendo fan… 100% agree. DLC that takes up physical space? Having to do so separately for any Smash character you want to make a CPU fighter of? Having such a tiny amount of rewritable space that only one instance of one game’s custom info can be saved at a time? Eww eww eww. You’re especially screwed if you have a figure of a lesser character who won’t find itself with potential uses in as many games as a Kirby or Mario. When I see a game has Aamibo support, I read it as “Oh, a game that I’d never have a full version of.”

    • Yeah, I didn’t mention the fact that you can only store one game’s data on an Amiibo at a time. Really? How cheap is memory? It’s like Nintendo just assumed it wouldn’t be utilized so they didn’t bother giving more.

      A little over 2 years ago, I wrote how great it was that Nintendo put so much content into Super Mario 3D World, so to see them be stingy is a huge disappointment. We expect a lot from Nintendo; we expect them to be on our side.

      Here’s that Mario 3D Land story: https://justinsthisjustin.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/super-mario-3d-lands-lost-levels-are-included/

      • Yeah, it took them so long to start dabbling in content not included in the base game at all, and some of their DLC behavior has been pretty decent (Mario Kart 8 courses), but Amiibo is something of a jump off the deep end.

        I once posited that I had a microSD card that would probably hold more data than all Amiibos ever made. I’m a bit less certain about this now that they’ve taken off in a pretty big way…

      • How much space can a game’s data take on there though, really? 4GB is a dime a dozen these days, in my estimation.
        I’m reminded of Vita, and how its expensive memory cards was a big reason I never got one. Not only does it cost a stupid amount of money, but it also costs goodwill for the brand.

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