It’s been a while, but those of us who were in the trenches remember the amiibo fever. It claimed many lives, or at least many wallets. It caused deep frustrations, despair, and thousands of poorly planned impulsive purchases. There were scores of message board posts, Tweets and tracking websites gained traction unlike ever before. Then as quietly as it came, it went. Now you can walk into a Gamestop or a Walmart and see markdowns and surplus. But, there’s a chance the craze could come back.
What hurt the amiibo craze wasn’t the supply issues. After all, people are freaking out just as much, if not more, about the NES Classic Edition. It’s about purpose and interest. For a while there, it was tough to stroll into a store and find certain The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild amiibo. The same can also be said of the other The Legend of Zelda-branded figures. Why? Because they did something cool in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and each one did something different. There’s context to the craze.
Before, it was all about Super Smash Bros. Each figure was cool and exciting and could be used in a game people cared deeply about. It was also a fresh wave of high-quality merchandise for characters not commonly represented. It was the perfect storm, one that could not be replicated by the tenth Mario Party and a couple of mediocre Animal Crossing spinoffs. These amiibo are not cool in a vacuum; even if they don’t actually do that much in a game, the game has to be cool.
Here we are, with the final wave of Super Smash Bros. characters, and they have variants. Retailer-exclusive variants, to be exact. I can hear the flashbacks and cries of anguish as amiibo hunters are brought back to the dark, but exciting days of pre-orders and Sunday retail runs. It’s happening again. Maybe. These amiibo are more in demand by default, but Super Smash Bros. has been out for a while. Completionists are gonna complete, but the casual buyers might not come out in full force.
Enter third-parties. Rumors are floating out in the wild of amiibo figures for games like SteamWorld Dig and The Binding of Isaac. The latter in particular, with its semi-boutique retail release, has already caused trouble with its own demand and supply issues. People love The Binding of Isaac and the goodies that came with the original print run. Now the second print run will have alternative box art. Collectors are going to flip. Toss an amiibo in there when people are already paying attention, and there’s a recipe for a frenzy.
SteamWorld is more of a wildcard, but people certainly wanted to get their hands on the Shovel Knight amiibo, right? If this takes off, more entries in the “Nindies” brand could get cool, niche merchandising opportunities. Imagine having figures of indie game characters that aren’t online store exclusives that cost a big chunk of change. This isn’t the kind of thing that would produce billions of dollars and shortage crazes, but it’s a new avenue that is apparently being explored, and I could see it paying off.
This is all speculation, and the new Super Smash Bros. amiibo figures haven’t gone up for sale everywhere yet. They lasted longer than expected on GameStop, but some of them have already sold out for now. The demand is still alive, even if it has been quiet for a while. It’s definitely a wait and see situation, but I can feel the collector in me getting excited. The collection sat incomplete for so long, and now it can finally end.