Ever since I decided that amiibo were a thing I needed to have in my life, I had been wanting to chronicle my exploits on account of how messy it is to buy these things (and as long time listeners of the podcast will know, it is damn messy), but for whatever reason I had just never got around to it. Well, nothing drives writing like emotion, and nothing has gotten me more amped up than the debacle taking place this past week.
I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this that you know what amiibos are, but just in case you don’t, let me give you the shortened version. Inspired by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, Nintendo decided to release their own wave of toys with NFC (near field communication) built into them and called them amiibos. When they were first announced, only Super Smash Bros. characters were slated for release, but they’ve since grown into several lines, including Super Mario Bros. and Splatoon. The MSRP for these things is $12.99, which isn’t bad for fairly detailed mini-figures that can be used to unlock DLC for several games. Sadly, only a few fortunate folks ever get to pay that low of a price for these things when buying their favorite characters.
The scalping of amiibos is so widely known that several comics and Youtube parodies cover the issue in detail:
I wanted to cover “the story so far” as it were in another entry, but to grasp where we’re at now, you have to understand that amiibos are launched in waves. Super Smash Bros. Wave 1 was a simultaneous release with the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. and three characters were underproduced: Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer. Unless you had pre-ordered or got lucky and found them before people realized their scarcity, you didn’t get one. Even now, people will pay triple digits for one of the US versions of these in their original packaging, as they haven’t been reproduced (save for Marth, who is due to return in May).
Every wave since then has had characters that are impossible to find casually. Wave 2 had Captain Falcon, Pit, and Little Mac. In Wave 3 it was King Dedede, Ike, Meta Knight, Shulk, Rosalina, and Lucario (the latter four were exclusive to specific retailers). All the while the problems were blamed on unanticipated demand, port strikes, or the retailers themselves. The first wave of Super Mario Bros. amiibo seems to have been the only one that went off without a hitch, though almost all of these characters (save for Toad) were variants of existing characters. Even that wasn’t completely flawless (I’m looking at you Gold Mario).
Wave 4 Score and Seven Hundred Waves To Go
This brings us to today. On April 1st, Nintendo held one of their infamous Nintendo Directs in order to promote upcoming releases. Much of this was dedicated to the new Fire Emblem, Mario Kart 8/Super Smash Bros. DLC, and Splatoon, though they did drop tidbits on upcoming amiibo releases. Super Smash Bros. Wave 4 would hit May 29th, Wave 5 sometime in July, and Wave 6 in September. They also announced new lines for Yoshi’s Woolly World and Splatoon. It was an insane number of figures to dedicate to manufacturing, but perhaps that meant they finally had their supply and demand ratio under control?…
… haha, who am I kidding? We only have to look as far as the Majora’s Mask themed New Nintendo 3DS XL or the Gamecube controller adapters for the Wii U to know that Nintendo loves to bathe in the tears of their biggest fans. So when GameStop dropped the bomb that Ness would be their store exclusive and people could order him both in store and online at 2pm CST on April 2nd, amiibo collectors showed up in droves, myself included. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The morning of April 2nd, it was also revealed that Jigglypuff would be a Target exclusive, and seemingly at that same moment (I was asleep during this) she went up for sale on Target’s website and subsequently sold out within minutes. Much like Rosalina before her, Target’s response was to say that their online stock had depleted and good luck getting one in-store at launch. Never mind the fact that unlike Rosalina, who released on a Sunday, amiibo hunters will now have to line up outside of stores on a Friday morning in order to get their shot at Jigglypuff. Great.
GameStopped You From Pre-Ordering
Later that morning, Best Buy’s allotment of Wave 4 figures went up for sale on their website. The two Fire Emblem characters (Robin and Lucina) were gone inside of two minutes. Eventually, the other three (Charizard, Wario, and Pac-Man) were gone soon after. I managed to nab the latter three out of sheer luck while getting out of the shower (apologies to my neighbors who may have seen me in the nude). “No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll be heading to GameStop this afternoon, I’ll get the missing ones there.”
I showed up a good thirty minutes early, just in case there was a line (which there was). It wasn’t so long that people couldn’t fit in the store though, so I figured everyone would cycle through quickly so I could make my doctor’s appointment that had been scheduled a mere fifteen minutes later. I had a chance to chat with my fellow amiibo hunters, and we swapped stories about our own hunting experiences while sharing in our excitement for Super Smash Bros. DLC. The time practically flew by and it was time for pre-orders to open up.
… except not. The GameStop internal system went down almost immediately under the stress of every store in the country trying to simultaneously place amiibo orders at once. The employees there, bless their hearts, were just as much in the dark as the rest of us as to when the system would be back up. More unfortunate folks arrived to line up, not knowing when orders would open (IF they would open) with some having to bail in order to return to work or attend other obligations. I got a good chuckle out of a kid who told his mom that he needed to buy a replacement stylus for his 3DS as trickery to be able to stand in line for amiibos with the rest of us. As for me, I rescheduled my doctor’s appointment twice while in line, plus told my boss I would potentially be coming in late for my shift (I was).
Over an hour after the GameStop system went down, it magically came back up, though it was painfully slow to process anyone’s transactions. The bundle that included all of the Wave 4 amiibos was sold out before the first person could even process their transaction, and the Robin and Lucina figures (the ones I wanted most) were also gone for sale individually. Painfully slow transaction after painfully slow transaction ensued, and for every minute that passed, my anxiety for waiting all of this time for nothing began to grow. My smile from talking to fellow amiibo hunters grew into an anxious frown as I kept looking at my phone for any changes in the amiibo situation. Fortunately, my turn finally came and I secured a Ness amiibo.
The tl;dr version? I waited in line at GameStop for three hours just to pre-order Ness. How about that Mother 3 localization, Nintendo?
In line at GameStop and their system is down. The struggle is real. #amiibo
Nintendo Feeds On Your Dreams As Well As Your Tears
GameStop later issued a statement that their entire allotment of Wave 4 figures was sold out and folks that stayed home to try to order on the website were basically told too bad. My only shot now was Toys R Us, who was rumored to have their exclusive (Greninja) and their supply of Wave 4 figures go up at around 6-8am CST. Despite not getting home from work until almost midnight, I set my alarm and tried my best to fall asleep right away.
It took me way too long to fall asleep that night. Not only that, but due to what I will attribute as anxiety from this whole amiibo hunt, I had a nightmare about coughing up my heart, leading to my surprisingly prolonged death. It’s funny how dreams work sometimes. That the only thing preventing me from experiencing a more prolonged moment of terror was that damn alarm I was so worried about stunting my amount of sleep that day.
Anyways, I crawled out of bed, fed the dog, turned on my computer, and searched the Toys R Us website for a listing for Greninja.
Turns out he had gone up for sale in the dead of night, approximately 4am CST or sometime around there. It was then that the significance of my dream dawned on me. Perhaps my heart being ripped out was actually a metaphor for Greninja being plucked from my cart, and me dying was actually me feeling like death because I woke up so damn early. Oh yeah, and the Fire Emblem characters that I wanted so badly were sold out too, because of course they were.
Light in the Tunnel, or Carrot On a Stick?
When I was about halfway through writing this, I learned of Toys R Us’ statement that they will be taking in-store pre-orders for Greninja on April 27th. That’s right, the amiibo situation has spiraled so far out of control, so badly, that you’re no longer standing in the line for the item, but rather for the chance that MAYBE you’ll get one if there is enough. After all, there are Wave 3 pre-orders that to this day have not been filled.
Guys, this is no longer fun. I have several stories about my amiibo exploits that are (I think) interesting, and it was about the thrill of the hunt on the launch days of each new wave. Yes, even that damned Rosalina. I remember bragging in line at GameStop that I managed to secure all of the SSB ones without paying a cent to resellers. I don’t see how that’s possible any longer. The way I see it, I have two choices: 1) continue trying to keep up in a futile attempt to complete the set though in doing so I will likely have to pay inflated prices to people who have no interest in the product but are just in it for the money, or 2) bow out of the hunt completely and say good luck to you folks, because I am so done with this. I guess there’s always 3) wait for the amiibo market to inevitably crash from people giving up the chase, forcing resellers to slash their prices or stop trying to scalp these things entirely. It just sucks, because I like these things as a product, but the methodology behind their sales is straining my patience. There are so many different ways Nintendo could go about this without leaving money on the table (which I may cover in another post). In fact, the situation should be getting better, not worse. How is it that Waves 1-3 can be up for months, but Wave 4 is sold out in mere minutes? I can scream at the various retailers and their shitty exclusivity deals all day long, but at the end of the day, someone at Nintendo is not doing their job right. They better figure it out soon, before their manufactured demand turns around to bite them in the ass.
Sean Madson is a staff writer and reviewer for Diehard GameFAN. His taste in video games includes mostly RPG's, but enjoys the occasional action title or FPS. He has been playing video games since the NES era, and will sometimes go back and play his old systems when not trying to stay on top of all of the new releases. He vows that some day he will knock out his backlog of unfinished games. Follow Sean On Twitter!