Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2014-10-08 06:32:04
Amiibo - more questions than answers?
Amiibo is almost upon us and I feel bad that I still can't quite work out what they are. I've read a lot of the literature and I understand how, from a technical standpoint, they'll work, but I'm still not really understanding what they will actually do. My fear is that if I, an avid games news reader, is struggling to work out the many applications and purposes of the Amiibo line of figures, what will a general consumer make of the product?
There's obviously a lot more to Amiibo than Nintendo is letting on. For example, I understand that on a basic level they will allow you to put Nintendo characters into other games - this could be an interesting little feature that would turn Nintendo games into toy-box playgrounds. Less clear, however, is how features such as the Amiibo being able to 'level up' will work. Are there any real benefits, for example, to having an Amiibo version of Mario in Smash Bros. Wii U rather than using the standard in-game character? Will it create balancing issues if some people can bring pumped up versions of characters into the game? If so, how will this impact upon online play? The more you read about Amiibo the less clear their uses become - rather than suiting one purpose, as Skylanders or models in Disney Infinity do, they are potentially jacks-of-all-trades with multiple uses across both the Wii U and 3DS.
This somewhat tricky marketing and lack of focus is confusing, considering the difficulty Nintendo has had shifting Wii U models, which many critics have suggested is a direct result of confusion surrounding the naming and functions of Nintendo's latest console. I'm not sure that 'Amiibo' is any more attractive or obvious of a name than the 'Wii U' is - and I can't imagine parents saying to their kids, 'Do you want a new Amiibo?' with as much of a success rate as, 'Would you like a new Skylander?'.
I'm open to the idea of purchasing Amiibos but I'm not really understanding how they will enhance video games. Sticking Marth from Fire Emblem into a Mario game would be a nice novelty, but I'd always feel the temptation to turn back to the original character after a couple of levels - games that bring together franchises such as Smash Bros. are all well and good but that doesn't mean that every game requires it. If Nintendo reveals compelling software on which to play with your Amiibo then the product could do well, although I wonder how many people will realistically buy them just for the sake of cameo appearances and leveling up.