But say you’re not aware of what an Amiibo is, lemme tell you. Let’s say you really like a game series, like Halo. Sometimes the Halo games might have microtransactions that unlock cosmetic items or special areas. Things of that sort. And you buy it and it shows up in that game.
Now, let’s say, instead, you can buy a real life small statue of Master Chief that not only looks gorgeous despite it’s small size, but also contains a chip in the base so that whenever you’re playing a Halo game, you can pop it up against your controller and unlock stuff in the game. Instead of buying one thing for one game, you’re getting a real life statue of a character you love AND the (supposed) promise that it’ll unlock things for the majority of games that feature your beloved character. That is Amiibo.
Amiibo can do all sorts of fun things. In the first Super Mario Maker for the Wii U just about ANY Amiibo could be scanned, changing the 8-bit Mario into any other character. If you wanted to make a Super Mario Bros stage but run through it as Pikachu, you go right ahead.
In Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, if you have the Wolf Link Amiibo, you could scan it and the actual Wolf Link would appear and fight at your side!
Heck, there was even an Amiibo exclusive game that was free to download called “Mini Mario & Friends: Amiibo Challenge” for the 3DS where you had to solve puzzles featuring tiny versions of the Mario characters you scanned, making it one of the first non-sports titles you could play as Daisy!
But in the recent years, Nintendo has SIGNIFICANTLY cut back on what Amiibo are capable of. This is, of course, despite the fact that Amiibo are still being produced. And while, at the time of this writing, there are no Amiibo in the work (the last ones for Pyra and Mythra came out last month) there is a significant library of Amiibo which you can see here.
It would be easy to say that Nintendo is working away from Amiibo, especially as they’ve pretty much made ones for all their characters and now suddenly don’t see them making more profit as giving microtransactions for a Mario Amiibo probably don’t have the same financial windfall when everyone has the Amiibo already.
It also doesn’t help that many people who didn’t fully understand how Amiibo worked rallied against them for some reason, despite being some of the only microtransactions on the planet that gave you real life AND digital goods all in one go.
Recent Nintendo games have seen a MASSIVE decrease in Amiibo engagement. After Bayonetta 2 had amazing Amiibo unlocks such as the ability to dress like Samus from Metroid and a weapon that tied a Chain Chomp to your ankle, Bayonetta 3 came out with ZERO Amiibo support.
Mario games haven’t had Amiibo support since Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. Super Mario Maker had, quite possibly, the most Amiibo support out of any game, and Super Mario Maker 2 had zero.
In Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, remember how I mentioned Wolf Link would fight along side you? In the newer Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, scanning that same Amiibo will…make a pile of meat fall from the sky as if the wolf had been butchered.
It’s really disappointing to see this as Amiibo can be a really great way to express your fandom, get a statue that doesn’t take up a whole shelf, and occasionally find rewards in games. But at the same time, Nintendo is still acting like they’re all about them.
One of the biggest things that surprised me is that at the upcoming Nintendo Live event next month in Seattle, there’s actually going to be a Smash Bros Amiibo tournament that already sold out. If you’re unfamiliar, in Super Smash Bros you can scan an Amiibo and create an AI version of that character that learns to fight as you do and, as you play with it more, it gets stronger. This tournament will be a place for people to pit their Amiibo fighters against others.
So why is it that Nintendo is all but announcing the death of this service yet hosting an Amiibo exclusive tournament at their upcoming big event? When these came out, it was pretty much a note for all developers that if you’re going to make a Nintendo game it had to have SOME level of Amiibo support. They even helped smaller devs like the people behind Shovel Knight, produce Amiibo of their characters. And now it seems like they’re almost pushing away from it. Hell, the next Switch system comes out next year and I haven’t seen a single peep about Amiibo support.
At the time of writing I’ve reached out to Nintendo to see if I can find out ANY information about the future of the beloved statues and will update if I hear back. But as for now, the future of Amiibo is confusing and unclear.