Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like amiibo have been around for far more than a year. It’s already hard for me to remember a time when we couldn’t buy a finely detailed four inch figure of each of our favorite Nintendo characters. In just 12 months, these highly addictive toys have cemented themselves as a must-have part of any Nintendo fan’s gaming collection. They’re here to stay, so let’s take a look forward and try to piece together what the future might look like for amiibo.
First we’ll consider the amiibo lines we’ve seen so far, and no, I’m not talking about the line in front of Best Buy on wave 3a launch day. Amiibo debuted with the Smash Bros. line, and we’re just now nearing the end of its more than 50 releases, all that’s left is the growing roster of dlc characters. This series made the most sense to launch with, because it encompasses nearly every major Nintendo franchise, plus a healthy selection of third party characters. The other lines of amiibo that have been released in the interim, though, have been a bit uneven and sporadic.
While releases like the Woolly World Yarn Yoshis and Splatoon’s Inkling amiibo have coincided nicely with the release of their respective games, other sets, like the Super Mario series, have arrived almost completely detached from a specific title. Sure, they saw some functionality tied to Mario Party 10, but they’re clearly branded as a general Super Mario line of amiibo. The recently launched Animal Crossing line is a little bit nebulous, as well. It showed up alongside Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, but by most accounts, ours included, this game doesn’t use these beloved characters to a fraction of their potential.
This leaves me wondering what amiibo lines we will see in the future, and to what extent Nintendo will allow them to overlap with the massive Super Smash Bros. collection. Early next year, the Wolf Link amiibo will launch alongside the HD remake of Twilight Princess for Wii U. I’d say it’s safe to assume that if this game comes packing it’s own exclusive amiibo, The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, expected later in the year, will almost certainly facilitate a collection of its own. A major release like Star Fox Zero will likely see its own line, as well, especially with Mr. Miyamoto dropping hints of an Arwing amiibo back at E3 earlier this year. A full line of amiibo based on Star Fox vehicles and pilots, perhaps? Beyond these game-specific tie-ins, it’s hard to say what other new lines might pop up in year two.
I want to hone in on third party characters for a moment, too. Smash Bros. has opened the door to pretty much any third party character becoming an amiibo. With characters like Ryu and Cloud Strife joining the game’s roster, and therefore the amiibo ranks, we’ve reached a point where it seems like almost nothing is off limits. We’ll also be able to buy the Shovel Knight amiibo later this year, the first character that is licensing the amiibo brand and being manufactured by a company other than Nintendo. These precedents should ensure that the amiibo lineup will continue to branch far beyond Mario and his pals in the future.
Next, let’s take a look at the various shapes amiibo have taken so far. The most notable exception to the standard amiibo figure is the amiibo card. With over 400 cards currently confirmed for the Animal Crossing card line, it’s clear that Nintendo plans on pushing this form factor in a big way. The question is, beyond Animal Crossing, what’s next for amiibo cards?
The obvious answer is Pokémon. With over 700 monsters to exploit lovingly craft in card form, the selling power and massive potential for this inevitable line of cards is obvious. Next year Nintendo and the Pokémon Company will be celebrating the brand’s 20th anniversary, and I could absolutely see this card line kicking off as a part of it.
There’s also the matter of other, existing amiibo being re-released in card form. Shortly after amiibo debuted last November, and amiibo scarcity began to manifest itself, Mr. Miyamoto made some comments about potentially releasing an alternate card version of some characters. As this was nearly a year ago, there’s a good chance that Nintendo’s plans have changed as production has stabilized and certain rare figures have seen reissues, but until they say otherwise, it’s still a possibility.
The Mega Yarn Yoshi is another amiibo oddity worth mentioning. This full sized plush toy that happens to function as an amiibo was one of the crazier, unexpected amiibo announcements of the year. Will we see more amiibo that completely shatter the mold like this in the future? Of course, I’d say it’s almost assured, and I’d like to add “bring it on”!
Phew, eight paragraphs and we haven’t even touched on functionality. Let’s not forget, these crazy collectibles have functions within games, too. There have been a couple clear trends in amiibo functionality, so far: cosmetics, characters, and content.
The most common use of amiibo has been to unlock various skins, patterns, or outfits for characters and objects within Nintendo games. This is the most superficial use of amiibo so far, and unfortunately, the most common. I can’t complain about amiibo I already own unlocking cosmetic perks in games I was going to buy anyway, but I’d like to see Nintendo move beyond this bare-bones approach in the future.
A few games have gone slightly beyond the cosmetics to offer items, equipment, and additional characters. Hyrule Warriors used amiibo to grant special equipment and items; Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker gained a special hide-and-seek mode through amiibo; and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse saw alternate playable characters and powerups through use of the toys. Perhaps the best example of meaningful amiibo content was in Splatoon. This content provided additional gameplay, challenges, and rewards with the simple use of its three amiibo.
Going forward, I want Nintendo to simply do more with amiibo. Every time a new Nintendo game comes out and the only amiibo functionality is some reskinned costumes, I think we all sigh a little inside. A single collectible that can give added value to dozens of games is a valuable tool, let’s hope Nintendo can figure out some new ways to leverage that power in the future.
This brings us to NX, and the next chapter of amiibo’s life and functionality. The only thing we can say for certain right now is that Nintendo’s next console with absolutely, without a doubt, contain amiibo support. The question is, how will the amiibo interface with the console and what new ideas could new hardware bring to the equation. If this new console is indeed both a home system and a portable in one, will each element be able to interact with amiibo independently? It seems likely, but until we at least see what the system and its controller look like, we can only take shots in the dark.
One other possibility, going forward, is amiibo interfacing with mobile devices. Nintendo plans to use mobile, over the next 16 months, to excite a larger audience about its IP and point them toward its hardware. Is there a chance that this plan could include giving mobile gamers that don’t own a Nintendo system a reason to start buying amiibo? If Nintendo can get casual and mobile gamers buying a few amiibo to use with mobile games and apps, the chance that they will eventually buy a Nintendo console increases dramatically. I have no evidence to back this thought up, it just makes sense to me.
All in all, the future is looking incredibly bright and equally nerve-racking for amiibo collectors. With over 20 million units sold in its first year, the amiibo line of toys is one of the most important ventures Nintendo has going right now. Watching them adapt this new branch of their offerings into a new console launch, their first steps into mobile, and some big franchise anniversaries next year will be an absolute roller coaster. Stay tuned!Leave a Comment