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As far as the toys-to-life market goes, Nintendo’s amiibo seem to have had nothing but an uphill struggle since launching in November 2014. While their constant string of re-releases of past figures has made them much easier to find both in stores and online, one major issue remains: what kind of content is best suited to be unlocked with amiibo?
A lot of people were annoyed when Splatoon locked 60 single-played missions behind the game’s amiibo (20 missions per figure), because it meant they were missing out not only on extra gameplay, but weapons, outfits, and mini-games that were exclusive only to the amiibo missions. Similarly, when you tap the Link amiibo in Hyrule Warriors you unlock the amiibo-exclusive Spinner weapon. Fans of the game who didn’t want to dish out $13 for a toy they didn’t want were upset in the same way.
Conversely, there are other instances where fans were underwhelmed by the amiibo functionality, wishing they offered more – fan reactions to Mario Kart 8’s Mii racing outfits and Xenoblade Chronicles’ system of unlocking extra tokens are examples of this.
Very few attempts at amiibo integration have been widely accepted as proper and fair, one being Super Mario Maker. Using specific amiibo will unlock an 8-bit sprite of that character in the game that you can then use when creating and playing stages. At the same time, players without amiibo can unlock the slew of sprites in time, simply by playing the game more. This method seemed to go over quite well with fans, but it also sounds an awful lot like a variant of micro-transactions. Many mobile games offer in-app purchases to obtain extra items that can also be obtained in-game with enough grinding and patience, but with a quick and easy payment, you can have access to it all that much sooner.
The latest hullabaloo comes courtesy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. Rumor has it that tapping the new Wolf Link amiibo will unlock an entire bonus dungeon called The Twilight Cave. A quick look at this NeoGAF thread will show just how divided the fanbase is. Some are saying this is a deal-breaker and they’re not touching the game anymore, while others think the dungeon is a nice bonus for those who purchase the amiibo.
One point worth mentioning is the issue of amiibo availability. Many people believe a locked-off dungeon would be bogus for anyone who missed out on pre-ordering the Twilight Princess HD amiibo bundle, which has long since sold out at many retailers. It has been confirmed, however, that Wolf Link will eventually be produced and sold outside of that bundle, and Nintendo no longer seems to have great issue with amiibo shortages anymore.
Even so, where is the line to be drawn concerning amiibo? Many consider the toys to be purely collectors’ items, and have no interest in purchasing a single one. Should content be unavailable to players uninterested in $13 figures? On the other hand, the whole appeal of amiibo is that they’re interactive figures, and should have worthwhile functionality to allow those who have purchased them to feel their intended value. It’s a problem that’s been cropping up for Nintendo every few months since amiibo launched, and they need to work out a more agreeable solution.
One possible route is offering the amiibo content as available DLC for each game, priced accordingly depending on the content itself. For example, the Mario Kart 8 racing outfits make zero impact to the game at large, but many people like having customizable options. Each characters’ outfits could sell for a small price, independent of the respective amiibo. What about the Spinner weapon in Hyrule Warriors? That gives people a different way to play the game, so maybe put its price point a bit higher. And sure, you can unlock the 8-bit Link in Super Mario Maker eventually, but why not have the option of purchasing the skin for a couple quarters?
All of that in-game content could be sold individually through the eShop, but it would all be accessible straightaway with the applicable amiibo. Having that Link figure not only nets you a fun figure to put on display, but it also allows access to all those extra perks for no added cost.
Focus on amiibo DLC would ultimately make some amiibo – such as Pac-Man, Pit, and Ness – less desirable, as they don’t seem to have many games coming out where they’ll be particularly useful. But, in these cases, the people buying them actively want to own them for one reason or another, and aren’t going to be as hung up on whether they are lacking in practical uses.
Essentially, this additional paid DLC would allow anyone to partake in the bonus content without feeling like it’s locked behind amiibo that will probably stop being produced in time. While paying extra money for the figures should by all account allow for extra content, offering said content to everyone for a nominal fee would be an excellent way to let everyone in on the fun without worrying about the clutter of toys.
If you’ve got other ideas on how to solve Nintendo’s amiibo dramas, please sound off in the comments. Nintendo claims to listen closely to their fans, so you never know – maybe your idea will be their next brilliant strategy.