Nintendo Turns into Toymaker with Interactive 'Amiibo' Action Figures
Nintendo’s newest trick: toys. (Image credit: Nintendo)
Best known for setting trends, Nintendo is proving it isn’t afraid to follow them, too.
During a digital event broadcast from the E3 video game conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the game maker unveiled plans to invigorate its ailing Wii U console. Chief among those is a new franchise called “amiibo,” a line of interactive action figures built to interact with a variety of Nintendo games.
If that sounds familiar, it should. This is essentially Nintendo’s take on the immensely popular ‘toys to life’ genre pioneered by Activision’s Skylanders franchise and made competitive by last year’s Disney Infinity.
“Nintendo has always represented a unique source of video game entertainment for the widest range of gamers,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s president and COO. “We create timeless games with twists and turns that provide hours of enjoyment for fans of all ages, and this year with the introduction of amiibo, we’re pushing the creative envelope forward in compelling new ways.”
The amiibo figures work in much the same way as toys from other games. Players purchase action figures — the company showed off 10 of them, including Mario, Link, Pikachu, Donkey Kong and Metroid’s Samus Aran — and then place them on the Wii U Gamepad to ‘warp’ them into video games using the system’s NFC (near-field communication) technology.
That’s games, plural. Amiibo characters will work with a variety of Nintendo games, starting with the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U but soon to include the likes of Mario Kart 8, Mario Party 10 and more. That’s a notable change from Skylanders and Disney Infinity toys, which only work with their respective games.
Amiibo figures gain skills and level up over time, but gamers won’t control them directly. Bring your Amiibo Mario into Super Smash Bros., for instance, and you can fight against him, pit him against other players, or include him on your team. You won’t fight as him, however. You’re essentially raising an army of personalized Nintendo mascots cleverly tucked away in beautiful molded plastic.
Based on the success of other toys-to-life games, it’s a smart play by the company. Skylanders has raked in over $2 billion since its 2011 launch. Disney Infinity managed to break $500 million in revenue since releasing last August. There’s gold in these hills, and though Nintendo has yet to announce pricing for amiibos, it’s a safe bet they’ll make a pretty penny once the Nintendo die-hards start collecting characters.
In addition to amiibos, Nintendo showed off a hefty slate of upcoming games in an effort to drum up interest in its devices.
A screenshot from the new Super Smash Bros.