The not so humble Amiibo has become a point of fierce contention within the past month. Released as a series of companion toys to the fantastic Super Smash Bros, these toys have quickly sold surprising numbers. Regardless of your attitude towards the blank-eyed, often mispackaged statuettes, we can all agree that Nintendo has found a string of success with Amiibo.
Now we’ve taken a look at the Amiibo’s Smash integration before, judging them for their inherent value and usefulness. Today, let’s separate ourselves from their inconsistent build qualities, from their seemingly last-minute, tacked-on nature. There’s a larger story at play. And it will either strike a chord with you or leave you questioning the sanity of everyone involved.
Let’s start with the first few weeks. The Amiibo line was released to relatively low fanfare, not surprising considering it was largely overshadowed by the release of Smash Bros. on Wii U itself. But after a bit of time the boulder’s momentum began to hurdle forwards, and soon Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer were reportedly disappearing.
At first I’m sure many assumed that these toys would release with tepid response. The collective attitude concerning their usefulness was, at least initially, only a few shades warmer than “meh.” But the realization that these toys could actually end up being collectable, and in the case of Marth valuable, was what began a riotous hunt. Preorders for the next waves exploded, ebay sharks raised their prices astronomically, and collector communities began forming.
While many were a bit burned by Nintendo’s conservative production numbers on the above three, it wouldn’t be until the launch of wave 2 that the situation began to look especially dire. The launch was covered in a veil of fog and confusion, with certain figures delayed by weeks and retailers seeming to be given different launch dates. Most stores sold out of their shipments of Diddy Kong and Little Mac within the first day, if they received them at all, and it was becoming clear that demand was spiraling far out of Nintendo’s predictions.
And then there was this past week. A series of events that have come to be known by a number of hashtag monikers involving two retail exclusive Amiibo, Rosalina & Luma, of Target, and Lucario, of Toys R Us, truly sparked the ire of a passionate group, eager for someone to blame. The first blunder was Target’s posting of Rosalina, which occurred early one morning at around 3:10 AM PST. It was up for roughly 30 minutes before disappearing. #AmiiboGate had its first shot fired.
But that was nothing compared to the Great Preorder Cancelation Disaster that followed. Two nights ago, everyone with preorders from Toys R Us including those who were expecting to get the elusive Lucario received email and after email spelling a swift doom upon every single preorder. Reddit, community sites, and the Toys R Us facebook page erupted in unholy wrath with some so burned they feel the need to call it quits on the game altogether.
While Target has come out to claim that they’ve decided to end the preorder of Rosalina prematurely to ensure that stores will still have plenty of stock (as scalpers were reportedly ordering dozens at a time in the short window), the Toys R Us fiasco is still surrounded in a veil of chaotic confusion. Some customer service representatives claim that a technical glitch caused the cancelations, while plenty of others pin the blame on Nintendo for undersupplying their promised product. Some customers were given $25 gift cards in compensation, while others weren’t. Some have decided to take advantage of in-store preordering, which has yet to be canceled, while others are sticking with imports of either Japanese (through Play-Asia) or European (through amazon.fr) Lucarios.
And all of this is before the 3rd wave is released, upon which day I’m sure further frustration and bitterness will be brought to reason. Is Nintendo to blame for this? Perhaps, but it’s a new market for them, and a risky one at that. Collectible toys are difficult to accommodate for in retail space, and, while incorrectly, Nintendo made the assumption that Amiibo popularity would be based on character familiarity, as the most recognizable Amiibo were clearly the most mass-produced. But we’re now entering a situation where a number of factors are affecting rarity, and the majority of Amiibo seem to be of short order.
And then there’s the collecting masses, who are swimming in an ocean of emotions over these recent difficulties. While some are swearing at Nintendo or swearing off the toy line for good, one has to wonder if their passionate need to collect all Amiibo stems from the rarity of certain Amiibo itself. I certainly would have only been interested in the characters I personally like if I hadn’t heard that certain figures were disappearing, and thus becoming valuable, and I have a feeling that this applies to many.
My personal stake in this situation? Yes, it’s true, I am determined to own them all, and have only encountered a number of stumbles on the way. There have been victories too, I claim while glancing lovingly at my Marth Amiibo, still protected by his plastic prison, sandwiched between equally and pristine Villager and Wii Fit Trainer. I was one of the lucky few who was actually up and attentive during that small window for Rosalina, and got my order in minutes before the orders closed.
Amiibo is simultaneously my favorite new obsession and most hated atrocity. They symbolize both my undying passion and love for a spectrum of franchises and a vile embodiment of my most sinister shade of greed and addiction. I lose sleep worrying about the legitimacy of my preorders, or lamenting over my lack of foresight over Diddy Kong (only a scalper won that day).
Yet onwards I tread, keeping a close eye on all fronts. The hunt is not worthwhile if the prey isn’t slippery, and Amiibo would be boring if we could simply press a button and have them all arrive in a neat little package a few months later. The Amiibo craze is a battleground with many factions, passionate fans, eager scalpers, and clueless children whose eyes light up upon the sight of lines and lines of Pikachu Amiibo available in every store. Perhaps my life (and financial situation) would be simpler if Nintendo had never chosen to go down this road, but it’s a road we’ve all willfully elected to cross, and those who stay will be bitterly embroiled in conflict for the foreseeable future.