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Published on November 24th, 2014 | by Chris Scott


Why Amiibos Lack the Magic of Skylanders and Disney Infinity

I like stuff: toys, knick knacks, physical items to hold and adore. I also like cool new uses for tech. So it wasn’t a big surprise to me that I got ensnared by the recent wave of toys-to-life games, like Skylanders and Disney Infinity.

Being able to manipulate games using real world physical objects was cool. And knowing that my experience differed based on which toy I was using in the game was even cooler. This promise made me want to buy a variety (or all… we know you lack impulse control- editor) of different toys.

When you think about the success of Skylanders and Disney Infinity you realize that all both games have done is successfully deliver on-disc DLC. And they’ve done so on a massive scale, charging $13-$15 per figure, $30 for new areas. To play everything included on the disc for these games you are talking hundreds and hundreds of dollars spent on real world physical items that act as keys to the content.

For any other game I’d be part of the chorus screaming and yelling about the fact that the content is pay-walled. But, for some reason, putting a toy figure on a glowing platform and watching it “magically” appear on our televisions makes me OK with all this. It helps that the figures are mine. I can hold them or display them (Sorcerer Mickey and Dark Spyro reside on my work desk).  And my figure is better (or worse) than your figure depending upon how much I played with them and the leveling choices I’ve made while playing. But what I enjoy most is that “magic” moment of making something appear in the game that wasn’t there prior.

Amiibos 2

Nintendo is looking to enter this new market for games with what it is calling Amiibo. Amiibo allow you to purchase classic Nintendo, and some non-Nintendo, characters and putting them into near field communicable devices that offer interaction with a variety of Nintendo games, past (Mario Kart 8), present (Super Smash Bros.), and future (Mario Party 10). And you would think that, as a big fan of Nintendo games and this type of gaming, I’d be jumping up and down at my chance to get my hands on all of the Amiibo toys. Except I’m not.

Unlike Skylanders and Disney Infinity, Amiibo isn’t a necessity to playing Mario Kart 8 or Super Smash Bros. Regardless of if I have a Mario Amiibo or not, I will be able to play as Mario in both those games, and I’d expect the same to be true about Mario Party 10. And this is the problem. While Nintendo is taking the most fair and balanced approach to the toys-to-life market, by not having a stand-alone title that requires Amiibo, they lack the magic of the other two titles.

Without the draw of the toys being necessary to the experience, my interest level in them has diminished exponentially. Sure, I might still buy Mario and Peach or Zelda and Link, but I don’t have a need to catch them all. Outside of having a physical trinket of my favorite characters, I don’t see the point. And if I, a self acknowledged sucker for this type of stuff, don’t see the point, does anyone else?

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  • My Name is Earl

    It’s a tight-rope to walk
    As you said, it’s fair to the consumers because we don’t need em
    But as a business having that one core, central Amiibo title would really drive interest and sales of these new line of toys.
    Curious to see what 2015 holds for them.

    • Chris Scott

      I hope it involves an Amiibo-centric title. I mean… I’m crazy and love stupid crap. This is about the stupidest crap to come around and I’d be all over it if they pushed me into a corner to get them.

  • Napoleon1066

    I didn’t realize they had no impact on in-game content… this pretty much just makes them statues. Weren’t those readily available for all of Nintendo’s products before?

    • Chris Scott

      It looks like outside of some cosmetic or bonus stuff, no, not really.

      • smashbrolink

        Hyrule Warriors allows you to access a new weapon for Link when you use his Amiibo, and others unlock varying rewards like high star weapons and loads of bonus rupees and materials to use in further upgrading your forces, so that’s not true.
        The author has not done enough research on Amiibo’s to be speaking about all that they offer.
        Heck, he completely ignored the potential of a trainable, evolving AI in Smash, which continues to learn and change how it plays even after reaching Max Level.

        • Napoleon1066

          But that’s different from, say, buying a Skylander or Disney Infinity figure and getting an entirely new character to play. Which I think is the author’s criticism here… it offers some bonus stuff (as you’ve detailed), but not nearly to the degree that Skylanders or Disney Infinity do. Now, if I could add a bunch of Pokemon to Mario Kart 8… that would be cool.

          • Chris Scott

            And that is the thing. You can’t add Pikachu to Mario Kart 8 using the Pikachu Amiibo. That’s not to say there isn’t value in the figures, but there isn’t as much value (at least not to me) as there is in say Skylanders or Infinity.

        • Chris Scott

          “Hyrule Warriors allows you to access a new weapon for Link when you use his Amiibo, and others unlock varying rewards like high star weapons and loads of bonus rupees and materials to use in further upgrading your forces, so that’s not true.”

          So… bonus stuff. So… not untrue.

          My point here isn’t that there is no value in Amiibos, its just that the value is different. And for me, the magic of the toys-to-life realm is adding a toy and seeing it come to life on the screen. If I want to play as Link in Smash I can… maybe I can’t train it as you are doing but nothing is preventing me from playing as Link. If you want to play as Spyro in Skylanders you need a Spyro figure. If you want to play as Rocket Racoon in Disney Infinity, you need a Rocket figure. And each of these toys levels up as I play more with them, so if I take my Rocket to a friend’s house he is already powered up and ready to be played which is different that powering up an AI opponent.

    • smashbrolink

      They do have an impact on multiple games, Smash and Hyrule Warriors being the two foremost examples.
      Don’t believe everything you read before having looked into them; it’s not all just cosmetic stuff.

      • Chris Scott

        They don’t have an impact in anywhere near the same way though. You can play through Smash and Hyrule Warriors without every picking up an Amiibo. And that’s great. But because of that, the Amiibo’s at least for me don’t carry the same value or need to get them as Skylanders or Infinity figures. An Amiibo-centric game would go a long way to alleviate this issue and give some tangible value to the figures themselves.

        • smashbrolink

          I guess our idea of “tangible value” differs greatly, then.
          All of these things you see as a negative that fails to pull you in, I see as a benefit solely because they’re an option instead of something forced.
          Imagine, if you would, the absolute RAGE that would ensue from long-time Nintendo fans, if Smash characters could only be played as, let alone unlocked, if you had their corresponding figures…
          It’s not a pretty picture.

  • Corey Milne

    Amiibos: Serious Business

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