Reggie Fils-Aime Explains Why Nintendo Waited to Release Amiibo

Why did Nintendo wait to release Amiibo?

No one can deny that NFC figures have become increasingly popular. Skylanders is doing really well, and it seems Disney is having some success as well. Now that Nintendo is jumping into toys with Amiibo, they may have scored big. They seem to have a positive outlook on their new venture, as stated by Reggie Fils-Aime:

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“I think Amiibo can have a significant impact on driving the install base for Wii U on the sales of figures themselves. I think this could be a significant business opportunity.”

This brings up the big question: Why did Nintendo wait to put out toys themselves? Skylanders first released 2011, and it has been a success. The success attracted Disney, who also released their own franchise, Disney Infinity. Yet, Nintendo did not jump in themselves at first. This is puzzling considering that the Wii U’s GamePad has a NFC reader that is compatible with such toys. Fils-Aime said in an interview with Polygon:

“One, we wanted to be thoughtful in our approach. In our view, going down this path you have to have differentiation.”

He continues:

“Second, we wanted to make sure that we would launch the concept with a big franchise, and certainly Smash (Bros.) fits that bill. Smash is really perfect. All the various characters, the gameplay that Mr. Sakurai has created is fantastic. So for us it was really making sure we had the right approach and the right method to launch it.”

Fils-Aime declined to say how the first round of Amiibo will see release. “We have nothing to announce at this point,” he said. He stated that the plan is to launch Amiibo at the same time as Super Smash Bros with “about 10” figures.

“We will continue to make new figures available through the balance of holiday 2014 and then we’re going to continuously launch new figures throughout 2015. For us, we’re not putting a numerical limit on how many varied figures we can launch. Our potential catalog of figures in the space is quite broad.”

He stated that’s because they’re based on Nintendo characters that have tremendous popularity.

“Even a figure like Marth, which, from a broad population, may not be well known but for that Smash playing audience, they know Marth. A lot of them enjoy playing as Marth. And then we believe that, given the lineup of figures, we’re going to have a more diverse ownership base, not only male and female (because of Peach and Yoshi that appeal to girls) but also from an aging up standpoint because people are going to want to collect Samus.

You’re going to have people who want to collect Link, all these fantastic characters. So we think our footprint is going to be much larger than what the other people in this space have been able to accomplish.”

One of the main differences that will separate Nintendo from Skylanders and Disney Infinity is that they will not release a standalone game. The Amiibo will work across many different games.

“What I would tell you is that we do believe the cross-game play is a big advantage for us. And having a Mario figure that could be potentially used in not only Smash Bros. but also in Mario Kart as well as in Mario Party 10. We think that’s a pretty strong competitive advantage.”

He adds:

“The specifics of the gameplay will be unique to the game, and it is really up to the developer to program. So you will have a developer create a mechanism like what Mr. Sakurai is doing, where it really is a leveling up mechanic. And you’ll have other developers taking different approaches. You might have a developer decide, you know what, I want to reward someone who has purchased multiple Mario games, and that really has given Mario uber powers. That’s the way he’ll program it.”

If Nintendo can implement these figures correctly, they will be a success. People like to collect these figures, especially if they are characters that they love. Nintendo has many characters that people adore, and I am sure that many people would like to have a Samus or Link figure. I know I would love a Kirby or Zelda figurine.

The fact that Amiibo are being designed for use across multiple games could also be good for Nintendo. Skylanders and Disney Infinity figures can only be used in their respective games. If Nintendo finds good ways to implement these figures into their games, that could help encourage people to pick the figures up. I feel that Amiibo have a chance at being successful, but it all depends on how Nintendo uses them.

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