Amiibo, the Ultimate Love to Hate ToyI have a confession to make. I am an amiibo collector. It’s shameful I know, but I was raised during the golden age of Pokémon, catching them all is what I do best. I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore collector, as I’m far too cheap to spend my hard-earned rupees on scalper-fueled, exclusive toys. Not to mention, I flat out refuse to deny my body of precious ZZZ’s to check in-stock rumors in the wee hours of the morn. But I will say, amiibo are the driving force behind my first bout of hoarder’s urge since Pokémon cards, Crazy Bones, and Beanie Babies.
Let’s be honest here, there’s something definitively addictive about amiibo. The appeal can’t be based on the allure of the figures themselves as amiibo are nothing compared to the more detailed Nendoroid or Figma characters. It certainly isn’t due to their functionality, because, I’m not even sure what half of them do. You scan them or something? Amiibo fanaticism isn’t fueled by any rationale or dose of logic, yet the craze pretty simple – we all want what we can’t have, or at least, we want what others’ can’t have.
Thanks to Nintendo’s complete (and repetitive) lack of insight into the demands of their customers, what would in any other scenario be a simple, fun hobby for kids or a collective few Nintendo fans has been distorted into an immensely serious and ridiculously profitable sport for a very small subset of people. Whether you call them scalpers, opportunists, or trend-savvy profiteers, these folks capitalize on rarity of many amiibo characters to make a quick buck.
Even I could be accused of this, as I’ve attempted and succeeded in buying multiples of certain amiibo characters before, usually one to keep and one to sell. I figure, the profits from the sold amiibo will pay for the one that I’m keeping. Sometimes fortune smiles on me, lady luck flies down from the heavens to give me an high-five and I’m able to win the amiibo lottery. But man something about reselling amiibo just feels…icky.
So many people out there – normal people with family obligations, school and work – don’t have the luxury of sitting in front of a computer all day or the time to drive to five different GameStops in the morning. Without the time or the good fortune, there’s no way you’re going to get your hands on a particularly popular amiibo, at least not at retail price; it’s pretty lame.
To be clear, it’s easy to point the finger at people like this who profit off of your pain, making it rain golden coins from selling amiibo on Ebay, but scalpers are not the root of the problem. Opportunists are a symptom of Nintendo’s inability to balance simple economic concepts of supply and demand – a byproduct of an utterly inadequate and inefficient system. Unfortunately, the company can’t promise a resolution anytime soon. Great.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had this to say in a recent announcement, “Our consumers have been inconvenienced by stock shortages on some of the figures in our amiibo lineup,” he said. “We have increased production for amiibo figures that have sold out very quickly after launch, that are indispensable to play a certain game for which we have received strong demand from retailers and consumers.”
“However, we are very sorry that we can’t promise at what point we will likely be able to resolve the current situation because figures such as these require a considerable amount of time to produce, store, shelf space is limited and it is difficult to precisely predict the exact amount of overall demand.”
If that news wasn’t bad enough, the insufficient amiibo supply could very well get worse. As Iwata pointed out, the number of games compatible with the toys is increasing, as is the demand. Nintendo has shipped 10.5 million figures since the simultaneous launch with Super Smash Bros for Wii U in November. The majority, 66% of these purchases have been made in the U.S. and Canada according to the company.
After all this, it seems like Nintendo just can’t get their sh*t together. Following a string of questionable decisions and head-scratching business directives, it’s easy to wonder if the company has lost touch with its fan base, or if they just don’t have a clue about what they’re doing. But maybe, Nintendo knows exactly what it’s doing.
Maybe behind Shigeru Miyamoto’s beloved creations, and President Satoru Iwata’s apology , resides an evil genius; a dark wizard or Darth Sidious-like character who purposely manipulates the amiibo stock so the demand remains higher than ever. Perhaps this monster wishes to revive an evil being with consumer anguish and children’s tears. As much as I would love to embrace the idea of an evil puppeteer to spare Nintendo from the blame of incompetence, this is not Hyrule, this is not the Mushroom Kingdom, there is no convenient scapegoat. Nintendo get your act together.