I have to be honest: I have yet to get on board with the whole Amiibo thing. It’s not just Amiibo; I struggle with concept of any of the toys-to-life phenomenon that seem to have invaded countless bedroom shelves and display cabinets across the world.
I’m a gamer, and for me it always has and always will be about the game. I don’t need a little inanimate piece of plastic to help give any more depth to my gaming experience. In fact, I have always thought that any game that uses toys to add playability to a title is doing so because it is possibly lacking in some other area. When I first saw Disney Infinity I wasn’t particularly impressed– for me it was a little rough around the edges both in how it looked and how it played, and aside from toy box mode you were left with a run of the mill platformer. But what do I know, Disney Infinity is a massive, multi-million dollar gaming franchise and Amiibo is basking in its own success with the fourth wave of collectibles soon to be available.
So, why am I still not on board? Why, when I read about Nintendo’s latest collectibles, do I not get that same exciting fizz that millions of Amiibo fans obviously have. That overwhelming urge to own them all, standing in line for hours in stores or paying over the odds on auction sites just to get that rare Amiibo that has been evading you for so long. Well, the reason has always been there, it seems, subconsciously sitting there in the back of my mind waiting to make itself known, and this week it did just that.
I was sitting in front of the TV one morning, sporting my usual, classy Rocky Balboa dressing gown, hot cup of tea in hand (sorry, no coffee until the afternoon, I’m British!), watching my five-year-old daughter play happily with her toys. It just so happened that her toy of choice this particular morning were her Sylvanian Family figures, and, after they had finished whatever morning adventures she had made up for them, she decided to arrange them on a table in front of me. As the fifteen or so figures stood there proudly, each in their unique poses, I was reminded of the numerous pictures I have seen of my friends and colleagues varying impressive collections of Amiibo characters, all displayed just so. It was at this point I came to a realization. They are just toys.
Now, I know that this may well be obvious to most; it’s not like Nintendo shies away from advertising Amiibo as an interactive toy. What I was wrestling with in my head from this moment was that I am a 30-ish year old man that comes with all the usual life luggage of any other average 30 something… wife, kids, job, mortgage, and a little spare time every week to indulge in my hobby, gaming. But given that a lot of these games that I love support Amiibo, am I now too old for this? Have toys-to-life been created not just to engage the younger gamer but also to filter out the crusty old gamers like myself? Has Nintendo unintentionally alienated a large percentage of its fan base that grew up with the likes of Mario, Luigi, Samus, Donkey Kong, Fox McCloud and any of the other characters now being immortalized as a plastic play thing?
Let me put one thing straight, I don’t have a problem with Amiibo. As a product, I think it’s fantastic. From a consumer perspective, and as mentioned before on our site, Amiibo offer a huge range of extra features and unlockables, often across multiple titles, offering great value for money, and they’re an excellent piece of tech. From a developer’s perspective it means that a game can now technically last for as long as it is supported. Initial projections for Disney Infinity were at least a four year life span. With Amiibo, this could be even longer due to its cross-compatibility with other games. I can see no reason as to why we wouldn’t still be playing fresh content supported by new waves of Amiibo on Mario Kart 8 over the next year or two, for example.
The only issue I have is that I feel I am missing out on what is essentially DLC exclusive to Amiibo for fear of embarrassment of buying a toy that, just as the box says, is for ages six and up. This puts me in an awkward position and leaves me with one of two choices. I either do without, never knowing what secrets lay hidden in the games I already own or I man up, go out and get myself in line at my local store with the rest of the Amiibo fanatics, only for me to then lie to the cashier when I reach the front and hand over the Princess Peach Amiibo, whispering softly “This is for my daughter, honest.”
Researching and writing this piece, however, I have, somewhat accidentally, come to my own conclusions to my problems.
I am no stranger to the world of collectibles, or specifically in my case, collecting. It may come as no surprise that my collecting vice is consoles, be it retro, current, next gen– I want them all and I am slowly getting there. Our recent tributes to the GameCube have sent me on a frenzied search of varying auction sites in an attempt to find a mint condition Panasonic Q! So, this side of the Amiibo attraction I totally get. But how do I deal with my own embarrassment and feelings of being alienated? Well, it seems that the answer was also subconsciously sitting there in the back of my mind, and it took this article to realize it.
I hold Nintendo in very high regard and have done from a very early age. The company has always been there, entertaining me, making me laugh, sometimes making me cry, creating the most amazing worlds and characters that I lose myself in, and not only making my childhood that little bit better but continuing to do so in my adulthood. Nintendo is timeless, ageless even! Do I think it has alienated the older gamer with Amiibo? No. In fact, I feel now that it’s quite the opposite. With Amiibo, I feel that Nintendo is celebrating its heritage in producing some of its most classic characters for us to own, and in doing so, actually honoring the older gamer. Nintendo has given us something that is tangible to own that not only works as a piece of ingenious tech with the games of today, but serves a reminder, a trophy even, of the games of yesterday.
So today I did it, I went out and purchased an Amiibo from my local store. I embraced my inner child and proudly walked out clutching my first< soon to be of many, Amiibo character. Which one, you ask? Err… well… let’s just say I had my daughter with me.