I love Nintendo. Throughout the years, Nintendo has shown that they care about having a small, but solid stable of guaranteed great games. From the original Legend of Zelda to the WarioWares (the most underrated Nintendo franchise, I’ll fight you over this), Nintendo has proven that they know exactly who their target audience is: fans who grew up with Nintendo. Their games rarely push the envelope or ask for much investment, and it keeps people coming back over and over because of Nintendo’s stable of classic characters, the likes of which, in my opinion, are unmatched by any other company.
When Activision first released Skylanders, it was a major hit. In its first quarter after release, it was the third most profitable game, along with the highest selling toy. This was with a third-tier video game hero at the helm–beloved as he is–Spyro just doesn’t carry the weight of classic Nintendo characters. Skylanders’ multiple sequels have each gone on to sell gangbusters, and are showing no signs of stopping.
The concept of a collectible figure that also worked in your game was new and exciting, and the possibility of Nintendo jumping into the market had gamers practically frothing at the mouth. A Pokemon game with figures would practically print money–or so it was often said.
Disney soon jumped into the fray, with Disney Infinity, selling nearly 3 million units of the $75 starter pack, it was an undeniable success. Once again, gamers and games journalists alike wondered “Where are Nintendo’s Skylanders?”
Nintendo finally acquiesced at this year’s E3. Nearly three years after Skylanders, the slow, lumbering behemoth that is Nintendo finally set a course for a guaranteed hit. Just over a month ago, Nintendo’s Amiibo were released to retailers. Within hours, certain characters were sold out everywhere. The Wii Fit Trainer, Fire Emblem’s Marth, and Animal Crossing‘s Villager were apparently released in very short supply, and it didn’t take long for scalpers to notice.
The cheapest price for a Villager amiibo online is nearly $40 (the figures MSRP at $12.99). It’s been over a month since they were released, and from anecodatal discussions with GameStop and Target employees, they haven’t received a second shipment. The Captain Falcon and Pit Amiibo were released at the start of the weekend (after a shipping delay), and were sold out within mere hours at my local retailers. Certain retailers even canceled pre-orders, after they received shipment numbers.
I spoke with the head of receiving at one of my local Targets. He informed me that each store in my town had received 2 Captain Falcons and 1 Pit Amiibo. I live in a city of 600,000 people, with 6 Targets. My local GameStop told me that they only received 1 Captain Falcon, and had to cancel pre-orders. With this gross underestimation of demand, Nintendo hasn’t been paying attention to Skylanders or Disney Infinity at all, have they?
If Nintendo would make an official statement and say simply “there are more of the sold-out Amiibo coming”, this wouldn’t even be a big deal. Gamers who missed out on the first shipment could wait out the scalpers and get in on the second batch. Unfortunately, Nintendo has been extremely wishy-washy on the whole ordeal; after multiple retailers (GameStop and Canadian retailer VGP) announced that certain figures were discontinued, Nintendo told Kotaku:
“Some amiibo were very popular at launch, and it is possible that some amiibo in the United States, Canada and Latin America may not be available right now due to high demand and our efforts to manage shelf space during the launch period. Certain sold-out amiibo may return to these markets at a later stage.”
“May return”? That’s not an answer, Nintendo. Add in the fact that Miyamoto himself told the Associated Press that they already have plans for “Amiibo cards” to replace unavailable figures, and things don’t look very hopeful.
If there’s a company that should completely dominate the “figures that go in a game” market, it’s Nintendo. And don’t get me wrong, Amiibo are clearly selling, but the majority of those available are re-sales, with retailers like Amazon and eBay just littered with price-gouging scalpers.
With their non-answers and plans to already abandon a product that is in high demand, Nintendo has shown that they don’t really listen to their customers. What is going on at Nintendo? Do they even care? I’ve emailed Nintendo’s PR for a definitive statement, which I will share when I hear. What do you think? Is Nintendo fumbling Amiibo? Will they figure this out or abandon them for “Amiibo cards”? Let me know in the comments below. Any particular figure you really want, and can’t find? I just want a Villager myself, but the Rosalina and Luma figure coming out in February looks pretty great, too.