For those who are extremely new to gaming, or haven’t heard about anything Nintendo since a couple of years ago, you might have missed the divisive collectors items shaped collectively known as Amiibo.
The devices work on technology known as Radio-Frequency Identification or RFID, technology that has been around since being invented by Soviet scientist Léon Theremin in 1945 to make a transmission device for their spies. The first modern version of the RFID wasn’t seen until 1971, when the New York port authority used it as a means of creating automatic toll systems, tracking vehicles and security systems on staff doors. The technology works by sending information stored on a chip over short range radio waves when a device requests the information – the signal sent is converted to a useable string of data by the device. In this case, data is sent from the Amiibo to the Wii U and sometimes back again.
The use of such technology isn’t the divisive part, though. The main issue people have is that certain content is locked behind an effective pay wall, adding at least £10 (or even more when trying to find rarer Amiibos) to access the full game. Combined with the scarcity of the Amiibos, sometimes intentional, with limited time releases or restricted numbers, and you begin to see the source of frustration from those who don’t “get” it.
Continuing to use Splatoon as an example, the extremely rare Amiibos unlock 5 levels that give exclusive content; a three piece school girl outfit for the Inkling Girl, the Squidball minigame and the Hero Splat Charger Replica. The Inkling Boy has a three piece Samurai outfit, Squid Racer minigame and the Hero Roller Replica whilst the Inkling Squid gets the three piece power suit, Squid Beatz minigame and a Hero Shot Replica. An awful lot of content, but it can near double the cost of the game – that’s if you can even find the Amiibos.
Nintendo have acknowledged these flaws and have multiple times committed to release more the existing Amiibos to try to meet some of the demand which far exceeded even some of the more ambitious sales projections.
Having said that, this additional content isn’t a bad idea for purely aesthetic content. This content can be in the form of a new costume for a character in Mario Kart 8 or a skin for a craft in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy Plus. It’s also a nice touch for fans of series to have their favorite characters, or a representation of them, in another game.
Features such as the trainable AI in Super Smash Bros. Wii U are amazing – an adaptable, unique fighter you can equip with boosts and equipment you gain in both single player and multiplayer. This provides a much improved AI opponent against the simple difficulty slider seen before. Perhaps this self learning and adaptive fighter could be more widely used in future to create new content in a variety of games. Imagine a Star Fox opponent that studies your strategy and adapts to your weaknesses or levels you design in games like Super Mario Maker giving you an AI opponent.
The benefits are yet to be fully realised. The Amiibo can only store data from one game, and the disparity between supply and demand has left many unable to reap the rewards the system could yet offer. This may be intentional on Nintendo’s part, in order to “encourage” the user to buy multiple different Amiibos. If this business practice is something you don’t like, steer clear, but otherwise it might be worth investing in a few now and hoping these get a good amount of use in the future.