Amiibo Fever: Nintendo's New Take On 'Gotta Catch 'Em All'

Amiibo-FeverFor collectors, of video games or otherwise, there seems to be a need to prove commitment to something. You see it time and again if you do a search for "Amiibo Collection" on YouTube. Nintendo have somehow managed to market these plastic figures in such a way that buying just one isn't an option. If you want Amiibo, it seems you have to buy them all.

Amiibo of course aren't the first "game enhancing toy" range to take up half the shelf space in game shops. 'Skylanders' and 'Disney Infinity' have both been for sale for years now, however, with these the target audience seemed to be children. By selling characters that are perhaps more recognisable to their parents, Nintendo have extended the desire to "catch them all" to an older demographic. The reason Amiibo have been selling out this year isn't because every child wants them, it's because their parents and indeed anyone who has grown up with Mario want them. What's more, some vague announcements and mixed messages from Nintendo HQ have made collectors think that if they don't buy certain figures right now, they will never have a complete set. The rush is on to buy the Wii Fit Trainer figurine and Fire Emblem's Marth, simply because it seems now is the only time you'll be able to get them. This has driven up the prices up on both eBay and in shops, but that doesn't see to dampen the enthusiasm for them. People are willing to pay almost four times the recommended retail price - after all, you wouldn't be a very committed collector if you don't have a full set would you.

If I sound derogatory it's probably because I'm jealous of Amiibo collectors. I haven't got any yet, which is either down to the fact I have no shelves to put them on or because all the ones I want are sold out everywhere. Like the Amiib-addicts I watch on YouTube, I want to have the agonising choice between displaying the figures in their boxes or taking them out of the packaging. Like them, I want to spend hours researching the lesser known characters to justify spending £15 on buying a plastic model of someone I'd previously never heard of. I don't even own a Wii-U to use them with, so the game enhancements the Amiibo offer isn't even something I can enjoy. But that hasn't stopped me wanting what essentially is a very expensive plastic model, envying those who have the full set sitting proudly in a line.

I must confess I wasn't thrilled to see they were releasing Mega Man as part of the third wave of Amiibo figures. I love 'Mega Man' games so if there was ever a character that would shatter my resolve not to start buying Amiibo it was him. Its excitement tinged with anxiety though, as I know what I'm like and once I start along a certain collecting route it's hard to put the brakes on. For example, I have some Studio Ghibli films sitting on my shelf that I actually dislike. I never watch them, didn't enjoy them but can't possibly sell them as on the spines are numbered. With these films missing, there would be gaps in my collection and that would be obvious to everyone who looked on the shelf. Nothing says "can't commit to something" more than the numbers 1,2,3,5,6 and 8 sitting in a row on a shelf. I also have 'SingStar Bollywood' in another of my collections, even though I can't pronounce let alone sing the lyrics to the songs. It's never been played but I have to have it as I own every other 'SingStar' disc. Clearly I would rather people think I have bad taste in animated films and a love of Hindi cinema, than think I am not devoted to a collection.

Amiibos-Wave-1

The approval of others is definitely at the back of my mind when it comes to purchasing decisions. I recently thought that 'Metroid: Zero Mission' would be superb full screen through my new Retron5. I am hesitant to buy it though as I don't own every other game in the series. I'm no stranger to the 'Metroid' series though; I have owned them all in the past. I've struggled through the 'Metroid Prime' games (even though first person games give me motion sickness) got enjoyably lost in 'Super Metroid' and even felt sorely disappointed with 'Other M'. I had to sell them when the family's funds were limited and now without a full set on the shelf, re-buying just one game didn't seem like something a devoted collector should do. It's maddeningly silly, this I know. Why should I have to buy a dozen games to play the one? It's not as if anyone is ever going to look and chastise me for not owning 'Metroid Fusion' when I own the superior prequel. So far Makoto Kano, Hiroji Kiyotake and Yoshio Sakamoto have turned down my invitations to a dinner party, so it's not as if the series' creators will ever be in a position to gaze across my collection and criticise my lack of devotion to Samus' various adventures. Even if I had the all the games one of them would no doubt point out that the lack of Samus Amiibo is an insult to the memory of Gunpei Yokoi.

But that's the thing about collecting it's near impossible to own full sets. There is always more to buy. Once you have all the games, you then have a desire for cover variants. Once you have all the covers you want all the special editions. Having all the special editions still doesn't stop a collector; they then want all the related art books and soundtracks. The goal posts move, the collection builds and builds.

The definition of a complete collection may be self defined and flexible, but it's hard for a collector to ignore. I fear no one knows this more than Nintendo which is why they have designed and marketed their Amiibo in this specific manner. By selling the figures, a few at a time, customers will judge which of the new releases they want against each other rather than against the collection as a whole. Once they start a collection, most will always want to buy at least a couple of figures from a new batch of releases. Evidently, all Nintendo need to do to maintain high sales is to keep releasing new waves of figures. Once customers had a sizeable collection the need to own a full set becomes greater and the unconscious desire for completion within a collector becomes greater and harder to resist. It's a generalisation of course and the buying mentality of each collector differs, but playing into the addition that is collecting is certainly something Nintendo would have considered. I would wager it's not long before certain rare figures are sold exclusively on Nintendo's website for an inflated price. How quickly this exclusive figure sells out will be the best barometer to measure Amiibo fever.

Collecting anything is part of human nature, part of consumer culture. We like to surround ourselves with things we like and there certainly is no harm in it, if buying them is something we can afford. For many the process of accumulation is as enjoyable as what you do with a collection once you have it. There's an undeniable satisfaction in inching closer to a collecting goal, even if we know that this target will change once we reach it. A wise prophet once sang that you "gotta catch 'em all" and this desire is at the heart of collecting. But, sometimes it seems, we end up buying out of habit, because to suddenly stop would break the collection that we have spent so long building. Many collectors suddenly sell up their beloved collection, because the love has gone, because they buy through obligation. Will this be the case for the budding Amiibo collections? At the moment enthusiasm for the little figures seems to be limitless, even if practical use in the compatible games is the opposite.

But how do you feel? Do you buy through obligation and commitment to an existing collection? Or is it simply nice to be surrounded by new things you love?


Last Updated ( 18 January 2015 )  

Julian Hill

Julian is the author of the popular blog Boxed Pixels, and is currently on a mission to document his thoughts as he buys boxed complete SNES Games.

Described by PlayStation Access as a "gamer, Dad and all round hero" he has been playing games since they had four colours on screen and blips for music.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) fierybirdything 2015-01-18 17:22
In regards to the Amiibo range specifically, the only one I have right now is Fox McCloud, simply because I'm a Star Fox fan and there isn't a lot of commercial merchandise available for that series, so I snap up what I can. The rather rubbish way that the figures "interact" with games puts me off trying to get as many as I can, so I'm just sticking with the characters that I like (having said that, I stuck with characters that I like for the Skylanders series and am now onto my sixth storage box!).

I do also understand what you mean about having complete sets within series (such as your Metroid example). It's something that I really try not to think about too much, lest I get too depressed.
(Link to this comment) DarakuTenshi 2015-01-19 14:13
I hate these Amiibo things!!!! Ever since Smash Bros came out on the N64 I was always wanting something like this to be a reality and now that it is I'm in the boat of having to get them all. The problem is Nintendo has a sneaky marketing ploy that makes it so people like me have to preorder them as soon as they drop. I've already missed out on 4 of them because of this and the special edition ones I will probably never get now. I had no idea it was going to be this stupid hard to get some of them.
(Link to this comment) Ayyshrekmeboyy 2015-05-22 03:39
Has anyone else seen the shitty captain falcon Amiibo figure?
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