What’s up with Amiibos

amiiboAn Amiibo is a small plastic statue with a chip inside that can be read by the Nintendo Wii U Gamepad controller allowing players to scan their favorite characters and unlock content in games like “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U,” “Mario Kart 8” and Hyrule Warriors.”‘

So far, the Amiibos are comprised entirely of characters from “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.”

Each compatible game handles the Amiibos differently.

“Super Smash Bros.” allows players to train their Amiibos kind of like Pokemon from level one to level fifty by fighting against and alongside them.

Scanning an Amiibo into “Mario Kart 8” unlocks a corresponding costume for Mii characters to wear during races.

“Hyrule Warriors” gives special weapons and abilities to players based on which Amiibo character is scanned into the game.

So, the big question raised by the release of these interactive toys is whether they are worth buying.

The short answer is no. Amiibos are too expensive at an MSRP of $12.99 per figure for an in-game experience that equals about that of what would have previously been some ninety-nine cent downloadable content.

The long answer is that while the figures are cute and fun to collect, and they offer some fun gameplay in certain situations, they are sitting nicely in a small niche for big Nintendo fans and major collectors of video-game memorabilia, while players who really want an interactive-toy experience can look to “Skylanders” and “Disney Infinity” for much more rich experiences for their money.

I played “Super Smash Bros.” with a friend and two Amiibos, Link and Mario, just this weekend leveling up the figures from level one until the two of us could not longer beat them. I took around two hours to go from level one to level 40, at which point the Amiibos were too tough for us to best in Team Smash mode. So, that works out to roughly $26 for a few hours of gameplay, and now I’ve got two characters that can whoop my butt all day long.

I guess if I really try to rationalize it, Amiibo characters in “Super Smash Bros.” are like paying for a higher difficulty level than what is available in the base game. I think that’s a pretty steep price tag for a tougher opponent.

Amiibos used in "Mario Kart 8" give character-themed costumes for Miis.

In “Mario Kart 8,” each Amiibo unlocks a corresponding character-themed costume for Mii drivers.

I haven’t used my Amiibos in any other games, but as I said they offer very minimal content in terms of unlockables or extras.

I do, however, think it’s a good choice by Nintendo not to include game-changing content with the Amiibos, as that would disjoint the player base and lock valuable gameplay behind what I consider a steep fee.

I think that is the catch-22 of offering this type of product. If Nintendo makes Amiibo-only content incredibly worthwhile and desirable, then they are locking important content behind a sort of paywall. If they make Amiibo-only content useless and boring like it currently is, then they fail to entice many consumers into purchasing the figures.

The point I’m getting at here is that for me, Amiibos are something that I could take or leave without a second thought. I would not buy any of them with the current content that is offered by Amiibo-compatible games, but I’m not unhappy with the four I received as Christmas gifts. They can be fun for collectors or consumers with 13 bucks burning a whole in their pocket, but frugal gamers should definitely pass on these for the time being. They are in no way a must-buy item that will complete the gameplay experience for any of the games that they are currently compatible with.