After Pokémon in the late ’90s and the Wii in the mid-’00s, Nintendo has another fad and cash cow on their hands — amiibo.
For those of you unfamiliar with the craze, “amiibo” is Nintendo’s answer to Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity line of “toys to life.” Using near field communication (NFC) technology, amiibo figurines can enhance gameplay for select titles on the Wii U and 3DS systems.
The toys were met with skepticism upon their unveiling at E3 2014, which led fans and experts alike to believe that Nintendo was a little late to the party–especially considering the Wii U’s poor sales at the time.
Low and behold they’ve now become collectors’ items. As of February, Nintendo has sold more than 5.7 amiibo figures.
While there aren’t any live statistics of how many amiibo are actually used for their functions versus them being hung on walls, I know that I’ve been sucked into it for better or for worse.
It goes without saying that I was among the thousands or millions of viewers that tuned into the April 1 edition of Nintendo Direct a couple days ago, taking careful note of the onslaught of amiibo information shared throughout the presentation.
This is where details of Wave 4 were finally let out, and to the displeasure of many amiibo hunters, we later found out that Ness would be a GameStop exclusive, Jigglypuff is a Target exclusive, and Greninja is a Toys R Us exclusive.
“Store exclusives need to go the way of the dodo bird,” said Jon Litz of Atlanta, Georgia.
To those that take the hobby extremely seriously, it’s worth noting that it’s almost impossible to just walk into a store and find the amiibo you want, especially in America. By not preordering an amiibo, the quickest way of getting an uncommon one you want is by second-hand, and they’re not going to be $13. People have paid as much as $100 for a Little Mac.
“The scarcity and ill-planned release of Nintendo for these amiibo takes away the fun from collecting,” said Daniel Garcia of San Francisco.
Seeing as how they’re the largest and most experienced retailer in the business, GameStop seemed to have the pre-order methodology figured out after the Limited Edition Majora’s Mask 3DS debacle where the console sold out even before GameStop locations on the west coast even opened the day it was announced.
The retailer opened web-in-store preorders at 3PM ET on April 2, in order for stores across the United States to have an equal opportunity to assist customers in preordering Ness and other Wave 4 characters.
Unfortunately, as soon as noontime struck, the merchant’s servers all crashed.
The constant smashing of F5 didn’t make things better for any GameStop location, forcing employees across the nation to reboot their systems. The company even temporarily shutdown their website with the intention of speeding in-store systems up.
When GameStop eventually regained control of the situation, their store-exclusive 6-pack bundle which included the exclusive Ness, as well as Lucina, Robin, Wario, Pac-Man, and Charizard instantly sold out, while Lucina and Robin sold out even before Ness.
Of course people left their stores rather annoyed.
But rest assured, there’s online preorders to be open.
Target-exclusive Jigglypuff was available for preorder as early as 11AM ET, only to sell out in less than 10 minutes with various representatives from Target’s help desk stating that the figure will no longer be available for purchase until its official street date on May 29.
“This is no longer a hobby where you can just collect your favorite characters,” said Andy Park, a Los Angeles native. “It’s now a lifestyle in a cutthroat environment where a short nap can cost you a lot.”
On Reddit and other amiibo-related Facebook groups, customers chatted with Toys R Us representatives, and one stated that the Toys R Us-exclusive Greninja would be available for preorder between 7AM and 9AM ET on April 3.
Instead it went up a little bit after 3AM ET, and preorders sold out in no longer than 30 minutes.
“It seems like you have to be up all day and night to get the amiibo you want,” said Las Vegas native Danny Garrett.
While popular retailer Best Buy didn’t have any exclusives this wave, they also sold out of their initial Wave 4 preorders in less than 20 minutes yesterday morning as well.
It’s been a rough two days for people on the amiibo hunt, but who’s to blame?
Is it the scalpers that buy more than one at a time only to sell them on eBay? People showed up at GameStop an hour early hoping they’d be set. Is GameStop at fault? Toys R Us did their preorders way too early. Is Toys R Us at fault? What about Nintendo?
In regards to the scalpers, while I hate them as much as everybody else, I can’t really blame them as a lot of retailers have already begun taking measures in order to prevent them. Sure, you have your loopholes for those that really want to walk out of a store with 10 Meta Knights, but scalpers also stood in line and waited two hours to get ONE Ness.
Can you really blame GameStop for their system going down? They even went as far as turning off their website in the hopes of speeding things up. By doing that, they’ve lost thousands of dollars in potential software purchases not to mention their in-store employees really aren’t paid enough to deal with the constant griping of people that want a $13 toy.
For Toys R Us… yeah, well you can blame the customer service representative for saying they’d be available at 7AM when they sold out four hours prior, but there’s always a possibility of an employee being wrong. You can’t put your faith on something one person said.
But when it’s all said and done, it’s Nintendo, right? It certainly is true that they haven’t exactly produced enough of every amiibo to supply the demand, but the business model makes sense. This is the company of Mario. You have to see Mario on the shelf. You have to see Link on the shelf. The Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Pit… not even Marth has made the company what it is. So why should we be seeing more of those on the shelf? I doubt even people with complete collections have played Wii Fit, Animal Crossing, or Kid Icarus.
“One day of notification for preorders causes nothing but chaos,” said Joel Pysher of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “The only people that can win are those living on a computer constantly clicking refresh. Nintendo owes their customers and their vendors an apology for the madness they are creating.”
The amiibo line of products is a prime example of just how valuable Nintendo’s characters are. Who knows? Maybe they’ll go the route of Disney Infinity and mass-produce everything, but making everything so easy to find is another double-edged sword. It’ll make more people happy, but it’ll make their product less desirable.
But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that Nintendo’s fans are among the most dedicated.
“Dear Nintendo, please make more product,” said Ryan Camasca of Oklahoma. “Trust your fans. They will buy it. Also make sure there are purchase limits with retail partners and online orders to slow down the scalping. I know it won’t stop it altogether, but it will at least slow them down. Your fans are depending on you.”
I’ll end it here saying what I’ve always been saying: At the end of the day, they’re just $13 toys.
Editor’s Note: Quotes were taken from the “Amiibo Hunters” Facebook group and various GameStop customers in Northern California.