Nintendo quite possibly has one of the biggest recognisable character rosters in the world, with it’s biggest rival possibly being Disney, who not surprisingly has also jumped in on the physical character additional content bandwagon with Disney Infinity. Mario, Link, Pikachu, Yoshi, Luigi, Donkey Kong, the list could probably reach 50 before we started getting into the more obscure characters in Nintendo’s all-star lineup.
A recent report from Nintendo America claimed that Amiibo, Nintendo’s new physical property, has sold over 710,000 units in the month of November alone. That is equal to sales of arguably Nintendo’s strongest title in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Great news for the company who is well known to be struggling this generation with Wii U sales far behind that of its predecessor in the original Wii console. Not surprisingly, the big sellers were Link, Mario and Pikachu in that order, perhaps Nintendo’s biggest trio of characters and also the Amiibos that had the biggest production numbers. Japan also posted big numbers, with over 104,000 sold within the launch week period, just under half of the amount of copies of Smash Bros. for Wii U that were sold in the nation.
Sales seem to be similar in Australia as Amiibo’s seem to be sold out country wide aside from some leftover Pikachu and Mario figures. No doubt a number of the rarer figures such as Marth, Villager and Wii Fit Trainer that have been rumoured to be discontinued from production were snatched up by those looking to turn a profit on eBay, with some figures selling for 5 times their retail price on the bidding website. We’ve also seen a number of special production error Amiibos fetch prices in the thousands such as Legless Peach and the infamous Dual Cannon Samus. This has no doubt further sparked the search for these factory error Amiibos across store shelves.
Nintendo has very cleverly used it’s vast character roster and has capitalised on the physical toy market at the perfect time, taking a lot less risk than Skylanders had to endure when it first released with Activision hoping people would be willing to shell out $15 for an additional character (interestingly Activision was also trying to utilise the reputation of the Spyro series at the time which has since been surpassed in popularity by the Skylanders brand). The actual in-game features of Amiibo are actually quite weak even if they do work over multiple games. A souped up A.I. opponent in Super Smash Bros., an extra weapon in Hyrule Warriors and a few outfits in Mario Kart 8. Nintendo itself seemed reluctant (and still do so) in divulging more information on how Amiibo actually worked with it’s compatible games and it’s clear to see why.
People often questioned the value of the figures and rightfully so, but there was one reason people always seemed to use the justify the purchase of an Amiibo. These are the first official, mass produced lot of collectible physical figures ever released by the Big N and people have wanted that for a long time. Nintendo is cashing in big time on the nostalgia of older fans as well as the younger generation who simply want to play with some cool looking toys. Older gamers want to proudly display their Amiibo collection by their console or on their top shelf and kids want to have a tea party with Link, Samus and Kirby all in attendance.
It’s the most hardcore fan base that always gets Nintendo through tough times and that looks to be the case with Amiibo as well. Nintendo has merged the hot trend of ‘physical DLC’ with some of the most recognisable characters in the world to create a product people can’t get enough of. It will be interesting to see if sales can keep up as time goes on, but due to the staggered wave releases Nintendo has opted for it’s not hard to imagine the fire will continue to burn for at least the next three or four months. Even after all the characters from Smash Bros. are released, Nintendo can easily keep up the momentum with characters with different poses or limited editions such as crystal or gold Amiibo that come at a higher price point. So well done Nintendo, you’ve struck plastic gold with Amiibo.