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With Disney Infinity, Skylanders and Lego dimensions Toy-to-life seems to have reached its natural conclusion in recent years. Just like the peripherals of plastic instruments from a decade ago, consumers have had enough of having filled their homes with plastic disks, USB base plate readers and various junk – the novelty is simply not enough anymore. As much fun as we had with it, Starlink: Battle For Atlas even seemed a reckless undertaking, even from the first unveiling at the E3 2017, and despite it being one whole strong game (with owners of switches that get the best cut thanks to the excellent game Star Fox cross-over content), disappointing sales and a rapid drop in prices only confirmed what seemed obvious from the start: toys-to-life is good and really dead.

But is that? A quick survey of the Nintendo Life office shows that we are still picking up amiibo if something catches our eyes. Nearly five years after its launch, Nintendo's reaction to Skylanders and Disney Infinity – apart from the struggling Wii U – has in one way or another surpassed the trend and almost survived all of them contest. We still buy them, even after toys-to-life went off a cliff. The crazy days of shortages and the flipping of the Wii Fit Trainer on eBay for 500% profit are long gone, but the figures from last year were remarkably good growth in the sale of amiibo. Nintendo is often accused of artificially bottle-narrowing offerings to generate consumer demand – a practice they deny – but shortages have certainly attracted interest when the platform was launched in 2014.

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The reasons for the steep decline in toys-to-life are hard to match, especially as Nintendo continues to break the trend. The statement that brick-and-mortar stores get sick of bulky stock can contain water, if it were not for all Funko Pops liner racks in your local gaming emporium. Shopkeepers like to hide planks with plastic as long as it shifts, and amiibo still do that. Refunds of some of the more rare figures prior to the arrival of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate helped collectors to pick up those they had missed and we also saw figures from other series appear. The other day we were delighted to see one Ocarina of Time Link in the wild and fought the urge to pick it up right away. What started as & # 39;OK – just a few of those we really like& # 39; Has ended up in a collection that threatens the structural integrity of our Billy bookcase. Of course we would get Chibi-Robo and the squidgy Metroid, and we would cut Nintendo's hand at the wrist to get that only Japanese Qbby amiibo for a reasonable price, although we really need Duck hunting dog? Our shelf contains various peripheral figures purely because they were cheap, or worse, they were rare.

You could say that other brands do not enjoy the wide generation of Nintendo's beloved characters and intellectual property rights. It is unlikely that Skylanders will strike a chord with many parents – because the plastic bags that fill second-hand bargains will testify to your local GAME – but Nintendo's selection is recognizable to virtual everybody. It is a valid point that is unfortunately founders when you think about the timeless charm of Lego and the invincible (and ever expanding) portfolio of Disney. As Mickey Mouse, Buzz, Woody, Darth Vader, Iron Man, et al. Are not enough to save a sinking ship, what dark magic feeds the success of a platform with Captain Falcon, Mii Brawler and, eh, Roy? How amiibo are popular enough to justify twelve different versions of the same character? (Link, if you're wondering – Yesincluding its lycanthropic form.)

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You can safely assume that amiibo survives – thriving, even – pure as collectibles. The Mario figures, Peach and Bowser figures with a wedding theme, consisting of the Super Mario Odyssey series, for example, were demonstrably designed as cake toppers for nerd marriages in addition to the nominal in-game bonuses they offer. The overall quality of the sculpture means that they look great – much better than a typical World or Nintendo figure – so that is undoubtedly a factor in their continued success.

Despite the healthy effect of amiibo on the balance books of Nintendo, it is more difficult to claim that implementation in the game was anything but a disappointment. Without the need for a large base, the fact that their Near-Field Communication chips communicate directly with the controllers is a huge blessing, but we do not yet see any truly innovative use in software. Even remarkable examples of integration are hardly ground-breaking and anecdotal evidence suggests that many players simply do not bother to scan them. Smash Bros. – the driving force behind the majority of the amiibo line – is a good example: training amiibo hunters that your fighting style is a bit distracting and the idea of ​​throwing them against a friend is fun, but the novelty bore quickly. The handful of customized challenge levels that they have unlocked in the original Splatoon led to an exclusive swag, although we do not remember if we had completed them all and we did not dig Wii U out of the loft to check it. In Super Mario Maker they gave you convenient access to the corresponding 8-bit suit, but you could earn that by playing normally. Other examples of proper implementation are there, but it is nothing very interesting or changeable.

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In fact, you could say that for space-conscious gamers with families, NFC functionality and gameplay value – no matter how conceivable – works more as a psychological justification to buy. It is an easier sale to yourself and loved ones, when you can claim that these attractive pieces of plastic also improve the games. Their compatibility with multiple titles is still a victory; even those you are on the fence can land on your board if they take a wet suit Mario Kart 8. Hardly essential, but neat enough to rationalize by throwing a decade.

Conversely, there are numerous examples where amiibo support gives more problems than it is worth. Wii U is boring Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival was mainly developed to encourage the company to make amiibo for that series – and for Which we are grateful. The actual game, however, was a swollen mustache. Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge on Wii U and 3DS was again an attempt to create a custom made title that fell flat, at least that was a free downloadable offer.

Perhaps the problem lies in Nintendo's unwillingness to use amiibo for something other than cosmetic items or small rewards. The company's approach was largely logical: every variant of a character (for example, Dr Mario or 8-Bit Mario) will unlock people-specific bonuses. Of course, remembering important content behind them (such as, for example, the right dungeons in a Zelda game) would be a fiery way to provoke malicious fans and Nintendo did not take that path.

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However admirable it may be, this approach paralyzes creativity somewhat when designers have to work constantly on the basis that players have nothing but the basic game. A sensible choice, yes, but it shows a huge amount of untapped potential on the drawing board, and after seeing the pure creativity with things like Lab, certainly there is an excessive, outside-the-box idea that could make use of the millions of amiibo sitting on shelves all over the world. It is inconceivable that Amiibo festival and Mario Party are really the best that Nintendo can do.

At the very least, they should provide added value to your system. Why do not they unlock custom themes & skins on your 3DS or Switch? Is a simple color scheme too demanding? How about a simple chess game? Board games have seen a huge renaissance in the past decade, both digitally and physically. Imagine one Dungeons and Dragons-style campaign, for example, where your character statistics and choices are stored in your amiibo. What about a sort of Lab tie up where you can use the figures in your own Toy-Con creations? Think of the oversized Yarni Yoshi or that monstrous Guardian amiibo? Why were they not tied to an exclusive DLC – something fleshier than a dungeon with a challenging assignment? We do not promote the idea of ​​excluding players, but by packing amiibo with the software, everyone is on the same page and opens the door to more interesting interactions and gameplay opportunities.

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We're just spitballing – Nintendo's boffins could certainly come up with something that used all those latent NFC chips in the wild. The company is adept at finding new and interesting ways to reuse older technology. Consider how a simple movement technology started the Wii revolution, or how Pokémon revived the aging Game Boy. In fact, Pokémon is it perfect vehicle to refresh the amiibo concept. To remember Pokémon Rumble U? The capsule toy concept died on the vine, but for a hot minute those tiny pre-amiibo figures seemed to indicate the direction Nintendo would take with NFC.

The huge number of samples in the franchise makes our imaginary RPG crossover for toys come to life now impractical – it is clear that you are not taking all those figures with you, and the reality of finding the right and continuous taps on the reader would already quickly become a big job – but the franchise seems ripe for a cross-over of a trade card with the help of the amiibo cards that we saw for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. In contrast to Animal Crossing, the direct control of the Pokémon brand at The Pokémon Company (of which Nintendo is co-owner), so there may be a few more legal hoops to jump through, but if there is one thing, the Pokémon Company more of Pocket Monsters than, it is cold, hard money. The switch to sales is incredibly healthy and, unlike the 3DS family, each a single console (or rather, any right Joy-Con) has a built-in NFC reader, so the player base is filled.

It will be interesting to see what the integration of amiibo is Pokémon Switch has in store. At least it seems that we will see the Gen 1 starters in smash amiibo form and we will capture them again, because they will at least be cute little figures. However, there is still so much untapped potential and after the success of Switch it is still not too late to unlock it.