Print Edition: January 14, 2015
I bought an Amiibo the other day. Hooray for me. I bought a funny little peripheral. For those who don’t know what an Amiibo is, it’s a little statuette of a Nintendo flagship character that not only decorates the shelf, but also can be used in games like Super Smash Brothers. It’s another funny little statue to add to my collection of funny little statues.
When the Amiibo first came out, I was skeptical. They looked like a more mainstream attempt at creating the Skylander toys but with a little less functionality. So far they only act in one game, and only as NPC characters that you essentially “train” to become stronger. They can become quite difficult to fight, and, in fact, one won a tournament at a big convention not long ago. Regardless, they are little useless figurines that serve to satisfy the big collector.
I didn’t quite understand how they would sell to a wide audience, but due to limited distributions of what Nintendo would consider “low popularity” characters, certain Amiibos became instant hot sellers. Certain ones were bought out by third-party sellers to sell at outrageous prices of their own design, and how did Nintendo reply? They announced a potential discontinuation of those models. So the public was left with the desire for something that was ultimately impossible to acquire without paying enough money to feed a family for a full week. Nintendo had won. Since supply did not meet demand, the focus on the Amiibo skyrocketed. The infamous Marth was one of them, selling for upwards of $100 on Amazon and eBay.
Though Nintendo has successfully integrated these toys into their market, I somewhat disapprove of their seedy marketing tactics. I’ve never been a fan of the manipulation of supply and demand. Nintendo is no stranger to the method, but with the Amiibo it seems somewhat silly. Already, as they move into the third phase of their Amiibo release schedule, they had even me wondering if I should pre-order characters that I only marginally care about so that I could just have it in case it was discontinued.
I suppose these business models are nothing new to collectors. Anyone wanting to buy a marginally distributed Super Nintendo game — which are practically antiques now — must be willing to pay hundreds of dollars. At what point, then, does game paraphernalia become worth that much? I could never justify owning a Marth Amiibo for $100 in the same way I could never buy a copy of Chrono Trigger for $200. It just isn’t logical. But somehow the markets turn into inflated pools of over-demand. Consumerism is already a terrible problem in our society, and gaming is just one outlet of that, but how is it ethical to charge dedicated fans and consumers these prices?
Yet I still bought an Amiibo. Not the Marth I had been looking for, but a Luigi. Nintendo got me. They plucked my heartstrings, where my love of their characters lies. They plucked it and forced my hand. Good on you, Nintendo marketing team. Good job.