Do not fear for the future of amiibo.
In 2014, Nintendo made a bold entrance into the toys to life craze with the worldwide release of amiibo. But more than four years later, how has amiibo held up?
It’s clear that toys to life didn’t pan out exactly the way we thought it would. There’s still a market for it, as evidenced by the release of Starlink, but the cancellations of Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions shocked both the gaming and toy industries alike. Naturally, many collectors have wondered how the future of amiibo would pan out in light of this. Nintendo themselves have pulled back the number of different amiibo released per year, and the games that do support amiibo tend to leave the feature as a footnote in their marketing. So given what we know, is the future of amiibo looking as grim as some might fear?
To answer this question, we’ll have to look at the games and the figures separately to assess the state of amiibo in the present day. But if you’re an amiibo collector wondering if your collection has been in vain, let’s just say your prospects are looking a lot better than you might think. Let’s look at the facts.
What is the future of amiibo compatible video games?
I won’t lie, it’s taken a while for the relationship between amiibo and their corresponding video games to find footing.
Amiibo were originally advertised as collectible figures that also unlocked small cosmetic features in corresponding video games. And generally speaking, this angle went over well with collectors and gamers alike. But starting with Splatoon, amiibo began to feel like the kind of downloadable content you’d see in other games… just locked behind collectible figures that are occasionally hard to find.
This caused amiibo to generate a lot of controversy, which hit its peak with the release of Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS. The game’s hardest difficulty mode was actually locked behind the Metroid amiibo, in addition to three art galleries locked behind three separate Samus figures. Even if you only wanted to unlock the harder difficulty mode, the Metroid amiibo was only sold in a 2-pack with a Samus amiibo that retailed for $10 less than the game itself. Needless to say, this drew a lot of ire from fans and professional critics alike.
Since that controversy, amiibo integration has become more incidental. Most games tend to feature arbitrary unlocks that aren’t gated behind specific figures. For example, Fire Emblem Warriors lets you scan any 5 amiibo per day for bonus weapons and items (with Fire Emblem amiibo granting slightly better loot). Super Mario Odyssey has some helpful features hidden in its corresponding amiibo, but any of your other figures can be used to uncover moon locations on your map. And while Breath of the Wild does require the Wolf Link amiibo to get your own personal doggo friend to assist you, any amiibo can make food and items fall out of the sky like magic. There are plenty of other examples, but in all of these cases, you would barely notice if amiibo support was taken out of the games.
This type of integration feels closer to how amiibo were first pitched, but it also feels like amiibo support is tacked onto most games without much thought. Sure, while unlocking content early and getting free loot is nice, it can sometimes cheapen the feeling of playing the game and getting these unlockables yourself. On the other hand, games like Mario Kart 8 hit the amiibo sweet spot. You can get a ton of unique Mii costumes depending on which figures you scan into your game, but there’s plenty of characters and cars for all gamers to enjoy. I love this since you actually feel like you’re enjoying your collection while playing the game, but the game doesn’t coerce you into buying the figures either.
Even if amiibo integration can be hit or miss, we can see that plenty of games still support them. And since third party developers are incorporating amiibo into their games as well, you don’t have to be a strict Nintendo loyalist to appreciate your amiibo collection. While no one should feel compelled to buy amiibo just to access DLC, collectors should still enjoy their amiibo-related bonuses in at least the immediate future.
What is the future of amiibo figures?
If you look at the roadmap of amiibo figure releases, you can start to see where the negative outlooks for the future of amiibo come from. But if you put the data in context, you can see that Amiibo are actually in a healthy spot right now.
Yes, the number of new amiibo produced has tapered off after the first two years. But for most collectors, it’s okay for those numbers to go down. The first two years of Amiibo were mostly Nintendo trying to cover its most iconic characters and the Smash Bros 4 roster. But once your amiibo selection spans from Bayonetta to Waluigi, there’s not a ton of characters left to cover. Sure, you can pull out the variant figures here and there, but collectors will have their work cut out for them just chasing down reprints of the first waves. Remember, there are more than 150 amiibo figures out today. Imagine how long it’d take you to beat Pokémon Red or Blue if you were paying around $16 per Pokémon.
It is true that Nintendo had to pull back on amiibo after gambling hard on the Animal Crossing amiibo-based games. All of these sold way below expectations, which is why you often see these figures on sale. And naturally, since Nintendo hates when its products are in abundance, we probably won’t see an ambitious amiibo wave like that again. On the plus side, anyone who did buy an Isabelle amiibo for cheap can enjoy a surprising return on their investment with her announcement in Smash UItimate.
Though we may get less amiibo per year than before, the ones we do get are really cool. For example, there’s the Detective Pikachu amiibo that is surprisingly huge. Or consider the surprising third party characters like Soltaire from Dark Souls and the Loot Goblin from Diablo 3. The sky’s the limit for what characters can get the amiibo treatment now. Heck, at this point Doom Guy could get an amiibo and it wouldn’t seem that unbelievable.
Even if the imminent release of Super Smash Bros Ultimate wasn’t providing us a rush of new figures into 2019, it’d still be an exciting time to see which characters will join our shelves as Amiibo.
Here’s the future of amiibo as a whole.
It’s true that there are fewer new amiibo coming out, and games are often utilizing them in uninspired ways. But overall? The future of amiibo looks bright.
Nintendo has sold over 50 million amiibo to date, with a huge chunk of those sales being in 2018. And even if sales were down, the online amiibo community is still going strong. If the decline of toys to life products had any reverberations on the toy industry, it clearly hasn’t hit amiibo. In fact, amiibo could potentially see even bigger growth now that they’re the premiere gaming-compatable collectibles on the market.
Whether you use your amiibo for all the bonus in-game goodies, or you prefer to keep your figures in your box, now is as good of a time as any to join the amiibo collecting community. And once Super Smash Bros Ultimate comes out, expect to see a ton of figures flying off store shelves. I mean, I don’t want to scare you or anything, but I will say that history tells us to always pre-order in demand amiibo when possible.
And by “tells us,” I mean I still regret the figures I didn’t pre-order to this day.