A few months ago, I found myself staring warily at Nintendo's online catalogue of amiibo figures. I'm a massive fan of the Star Fox and Fire Emblem series, so naturally my cursor was hovering over the Fox and Ike figurines. They looked great. Ike with his long red cloak and powerful stance. Fox and his big bushy tail and smarmy grin. I remember dragging them to the basket and yanking them back out at least a couple of times, cursing myself for even considering such a vain and stupid purchase. These figures are largely pointless, Jon. It's a waste of what little money you already have. But I gave in, bumbled my address and payment information into the fields and pressed the yes please send me these stupid infantile figures before I have the opportunity to change my mind button, and a couple of days a later a bloke from Yodel waddled them onto my porch.
It was a decision that would go on to cost me nearly four hundred pounds.
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In front of me, right now, lined up along the wall in sealed plastic boxes, staring at me with mocking and cruel indifference, there are 22 new five-inch friends for Ike and Fox. In total, I've bought 33 amiibos from the Smash Bros set, the Splatoon kids (all of them) and even a couple of the so-cute-they-should-be-illegal yarn Yoshis.
I keep them in their boxes and they hate me. King Dedede leers at me with his gormless, shit-eating grin. From the confines of his plastic prison, Little Mac silently threatens to knock me out for being such a useless, frivolous man-child. The Animal Crossing Villager's gammy mug begs me to rip him from his casing and lob him forcefully into the house spider-infested bin area outside the flats. All of these figures are mine, they all despise me, and I hate them back with equal if not greater ferocity.
Of course, amiibo figures weren't designed to just sit in their boxes. I just like mine that way. You're meant to tear them out and use them as tap-to-access DLC vehicles. The gaming content offered by amiibo figures is flimsy at worst and interesting at best, ranging from new skins for your Mario Kart characters to exclusive challenges in Splatoon. The DLC on offer isn't exactly mind-blowing, but in spite of this, amiibo figures have taken the world and its wallet by the scruff of the neck and down into that alley you avoid on the way home from work for a damn good seeing to.
Why? And how did I get myself into this mess? There are two pertinent reasons.
The first is that amiibo figures look absolutely great. You can't deny it. Each one bursts with detail, and you can feel the love and attention that's gone into all of them. The blue chrome sheen of Zero Suit Samus. Shulk's Monado, the wooden rear of Toon Link's shield, and Olimar's transparent helmet. Kid Icarus' Palutena, arguably one the most lovingly crafted amiibo yet, shimmers with a jaw-dropping green-gold majesty. They're stunning.
On a good day, just looking at them can cause waves of euphoria to surge through my brain. On the shelf, they're a kaleidoscope of colours, Ike reds against sumptuous Meta Knight purples, all fiery oranges, nauseating pinks and deep, rich swamp greens. That simple, chirpy little white strip along the bottom. As little pieces of memorabilia from Nintendo's history, they're incredibly well crafted and disgustingly satisfying.
There's a figure for everyone, too. From Nintendo staples like Mario and Peach, right the way through to EarthBound star Ness, Pokémon favourite Jigglypuff and lesser-known RPG characters like Shulk and Fire Emblem's Lucina. With Pac-Man and Mega Man, there's even a third party presence in the roster. It's testament to the exceptional line-up of characters on Smash 4, and the overwhelming, unprecedented, and insane popularity of the figures themselves. Which brings me onto the next reason.
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Hype. I'm ashamed to write that I got swept up in it. But I did. It was impossible not to. The forum I frequent has a 60-page thread dedicated to the figures. Members swap hunting anecdotes, unboxing videos and proud first-day purchase pictures. Neogaf's amiibo community is arguably the most healthily rabid, and boasts a bustling 300-page thread on the subject.
Around the time I started collecting the figures, street demand for amiibo went stratospheric. Popping into the local GAME or HMV would return the same old shower of fossilised, dust-covered Pikachus and Peaches, trying to pre-order the figures on Amazon became a soul crushing game of fastest-fingers-first, and the queue for one-per-person figures at NYC's Nintendo World regularly snakes around the block.
For a time, Little Mac, Shulk and Rosalina amiibos were like gold dust. Liked EarthBound? Want a little Ness figure? Good fucking luck with that. Want a Robin without paying £40 for one or stumbling across one in a run-down shop thousands of miles away? Spare me sir, for your fanciful tales of fortune are too much for my ribs to bear.
In an ugly turn of events, a black market economy and disinterested and greedy community of scalpers emerged, and sites like Amazon and eBay became filled with dot-eyed morons buying up stock to sell on at a profit. Nintendo was forced to publicly apologise for the shortages. Reddit set up an "obtainability chart" to help collectors find their favourites. For the discerning amiibo hunter, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. And I wandered the crowds and lurked in forums, hopelessly addicted. Finding a rare figure in a shop or securing a sought after pre-order was like a drug, and I smoked, snorted and swallowed that shit every single day.
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The brooding dark clouds of amiibogeddon have since parted, and our eyes are squeezing at the rays of restock sunlight. In fact, as I write this, you can pick up a healthy amount of the more rare figures for RRP. Prices are coming down on Amazon, and a lot of other independent retailers are following suit as more stock makes its way into the hands of hungry hunters. The bubble has been burst.
So, does Nintendo plan to ease up on amiibo production and concentrate on, oh, I don't know, making some games? If this year's E3 conference was anything to go by, you've got two hopes of that happening. Bob and no.
Nintendo's E3 spent a good deal of time on our little five-inch friends. There was a whole section dedicated to the new partnership between amiibo and Skylanders, and a serious amount of screen time discussing the upcoming Animal Crossing series amiibo line, the adorable yarn Yoshis and September's new wave. These little figures are plugging a gap in Nintendo's revenue stream following the relative consumer indifference towards the Wii U, and if that helps support for the company's next console, it can only be a good thing. Make no mistake: they are here to stay, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.
September's wave is looking great. Duck Hunt, Mr. Game and Watch, and even R.O.B. the Robot will shortly trundle down the conveyor belt at amiibo HQ. And that retro Mario for Super Mario Maker looks pretty tasty too, doesn't it? Yeah. And who could meaningfully resist a Tom Nook amiibo? Of course you can't. Go on. Google some images of them. They're only £10.99. You can afford that, right? You've always liked Kirby, too. So? Grab Dedede. Wouldn't you like to touch a woolly Yoshi? Of course you would. Buy one. Buy two. Buy three.
Just don't come crying to me when your girlfriend's threatening to leave you, there's 50 of them staring at you from the walls of your lonely little flat and you're eating beans out of a shoe.
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