Inside a strange name lies an interesting idea.
I admit this freely: Nintendo did a damn good job of accentuating the positives at this year’s E3! When I heard they would once again be taking a pass (and come to find out Iwata would be unable to attend due to health reasons) I was seriously questioning Nintendo’s commitment to compete in today’s game market. While they didn’t have anything on-hand that impressed quite as much as Sony or even Microsoft did at their events, the 40 minute digital package hit on all eight cylinders. We saw new Mario stuff. We saw new Zelda stuff. We even saw Yoshi made of yarn! For what it was, I have to hand it to Nintendo for knowing well enough to dance with the ones that brought 'um!
However, even though the more well-known franchises usually steal the spotlight at a show like this, this year was different.
That honor went to the recently announced Amiibos. So, what the hell is an Amiibo you might ask? While it might sound like something you’d find growing on the underside of a Warp Pipe, it is so much more! If you think back to the days of Super Smash Bros Melee, you’ll find the origins of the concept. Statues that come to life to do battle were only a fantasy back then, but now Nintendo has made it a reality. The idea is simple; first pick up an Amiibo figure in the shape of one of your favorite characters (IE: Mario, Link, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong, etc). Inside, you’ll find a digitally encoded version of said character. By simply touching it to your Wii U GamePad, you will transfer them INTO the game. So if you have spent several weeks owning your friends at Super Smash Bros. at your house (and they want to change the venue) you won’t be at a disadvantage. All the time you’ve spent leveling your character and building his abilities can now travel with you in your pocket anywhere you go! Simply download the stats from your game to your Amiibo, upload to your fiend’s console and BOOM! Your own unique version of Link (completely customized) is now ready to continue the ass whoop-a-thon.
So, the question is, will this become the life raft that the Wii U needed to keep it from drowning?
It’s hard to say if the Amiibo will be the magic bullet to cure all Nintendo’s problems their having with their latest console. While I don’t think moving your character between multiple versions of Super Smash Bros. will have enough of an impact to move the needle, this next bit of news just might. The Amiibo is not just a ‘Smash Bros. gimmick. It’s going to open up new possibilities throughout Nintendo’s entire library! Upcoming titles like Yoshi’s Woolly World, Captain Toad: Treasured Hunter and the recently released ‘Mario Kart will all integrate with the new figures. How will these stats translate across multiple genres of games? Frankly, we don’t know. Obviously, it is unclear to how the leveling of Mario’s powers in ‘Smash Bros. will translate to Mario Kart (a racing game). Will he be more resilient to turtle shell attacks? What new capabilities will data from your statue unlock in a world like Captain Toad? Could leveling up your abilities in one game allows you to access previously unseen parts of the map in another (by transferring the stats with Amiibo as your bridge)? In addition, the 3DS will also utilize the new technology as well. Simply by purchasing an adapter which Nintendo has planned for the future; transfers between your console and handheld will be made possible by a few simple button presses.
This concept could very well be the lighting that Nintendo needed to catch in their very empty bottle. I can’t be sure it will be enough to pull the Wii U out of its nose dive (as I’m not sure anything can do that at this point) I do like the doors it could open up. Until now, most of our games have stood as their own separate entities, completely independent from the rest of our libraries. With the Amiibo, you could break down these walls. Bringing data over from one character that could enhance another creates a circle of life that is as inspired as it is innovative.
Imagine it, a symbiotic relationship that connects your franchises in a way never seen before. Using progress in one game to leap frog into another, linking your entire history of gaming together as one long, unbroken strand!
Let’s hope the Amiibo lives up to this kind of potential. I wanna’ see Nintendo succeed; even if it’s just in their own backyard.