Inside Pulse 12

The Amiibo Chronicles: Volume 2 – Wave 4 Aftermath

Welcome to Volume 2 of The Amiibo Chronicles (check out Volume 1 if you missed it) where I vent my frustrations over the amiibo stock shortages and share stories of both joy and misery. Today’s topic is all about Amiibo D-Day which just occurred on May 29th, 2015. For the unaware, that particular date is when the Wave 4 of the Super Smash Bros. amiibos released, as well as a couple odds and ends (like the Splatoon and Silver Mario). Amiibo D-Day is not the official name for it, but it’s what I choose to call it because it’s a Day and Amiibos were released, and you know someone got the D (and not in the good way).



I Don’t Want No Gray Ninja’s

Before I get too far into my May 29th exploits, let’s back up a bit. In Volume 1, you may recall that I tried (and failed) to pre-order a Greninja from Toys R Us via their website when they decided to list them at unreasonable hours. Fortunately, I had another shot. On April 27th, Toys R Us would get between 10-20 pre-orders per store for folks to secure a figure if they didn’t get a chance to in the middle of the night. Using my Rosalina experience as grounds for a favorable estimate of when to be there, I decided that 8am would be early enough (Toys R Us opens at 10). Unfortunately, others had the same idea.

As I approached the parking lot, I saw that there were already a dozen or so folks standing in line. I was number thirteen, which meant that I should still be good to go so long as the amount allotted was closer to twenty than it was to ten. A few more joined behind me, including a financial adviser using up his PTO, a guy that worked in a law office who stopped in on his break, and another that admitted to making his living on eBay. If nothing else, they were an entertaining crew to chat with, making the wait in line seem almost non-existent. The financial adviser told me that were we to come up short with pre-orders, he would use the rest of his day to work on his virtual pinball machine. He even showed me pictures of his work in progress (it looked pretty awesome).

As we chatted, word made it down to us that the people in the very front of the line had been there since 11pm the night before. I will never forget the wise words of eBay guy: “I make my living from selling online and I don’t even find that worth it.” I’m glad someone said what we were all thinking. Still, they clearly deserved Greninja more than I did with that level of dedication. My favorite part was having several people drive up asking what were in line for and having several others having to explain just what the hell amiibos are.

One elderly lady in particular approached and wanted an explanation of why there was such a line. Financial adviser guy pitched in: “We’re here for Greninja.” Baffled, she replied with “Oh, I don’t want no Grey Ninja’s, I just want some dolls for my granddaughter.” We all got a nice chuckle out of that, though it was nothing compared to what was to come. After sighing and glancing at her watch, the lady asked “What time do they open? Isn’t it 9:30?” The financial adviser corrected her. “No, it’s 10:00.” She was taken aback. “Oh…” she said. “Well, that ain’t worth it!” And with that, she hopped in her car and sped off. I couldn’t help but crack up. It really highlighted how stupid this whole thing was.

Eventually, about ten minutes before they were to open, one of the employees came outside and announced how many pre-orders they were taking. Turns out it was ten. Another missed opportunity. Go figure.

Amiibo Impossible

Even though I didn’t need to obtain all of the Wave 4 figures (as I had a number of them that I’d successfully pre-ordered), there was still a good amount of planning to be had. Four in particular I had set my sights on: Jigglypuff (Target exclusive), Greninja (Toys R Us exclusive) Robin & Lucina (both unicorn scarce). I had decided early on that Target was going to be my best bet, not only because of the high number of stores in my area, but also due to my last Toys R Us excursion being a complete bust. Plus, I had reliable information that the Target I had staked out was going to get at least four of Robin & Lucina, so as long as I was one of the first people in line, I would be set.

Unfortunately, as we’ve learned so far, there are no sure bets with amiibos.

Amiibloodbath

Since Target opened at 8am and the one I was heading towards was in a somewhat remote location compared to the rest, I had decided that 7am was early enough to be present. Especially due to the relative ease of obtaining Rosalina. Again, the Nintendo gods decided I was not worthy.

As I rolled into the parking lot, I saw a handful of folks already standing outside the door. As I approached, I made a mental count of them. One, two, three… shit. There were seven people ahead of me, which meant that if there were only going to be four Robin and Lucina, then they’d be long gone before it was my turn. It was already too late to stake out another Target though, so I thought it’d be in my best interest to wait this one out so I can at least get Jigglypuff and I could try one of the several other retailers selling amiibos that day when they open at ten.

While I went over my strategy in my head, I happened to notice a familiar face. It was none other than financial adviser guy from my failed Toys R Us excursion. He recognized me immediately, and proceeded to show me updated pictures from his virtual pinball table (it’s really coming along nicely, by the way). He also repeated a story that he’d told me a month before, about how when he went to pre-order Ness he was late to work due to the system crash and had to produce a receipt to his boss to prove he wasn’t just out interviewing for another job. He also told of how he waited in line at this very same Target for the Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL. They had gotten three in and he happened to be number three.

While he was talking, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the guy who happened to be at the front of the line. He was curled up in a fold out lawn chair, shirt full of holes, engulfed in a blanket. He was sleeping, and his co-collector buddy explained: “We got here at 1am last night. Had to drive from Wisconsin due to the non-existent stock of Lucina and Robin over there.” Great. The panic has gotten so bad that we’re now encroaching on each others’ territory. Again, they were more dedicated than I, thus they were welcome to the spoils.

Finally, the doors opened and we were led single file to the electronics department. I was impressed at how organized this was and that no one was fighting or sprinting to be first. It’s funny how behaved gamers are on launch day compared to your average Black Friday shopper. As we got to the counter, we were told that the rule was TWO AMIIBO PER CUSTOMER. This seemed like a great deal for someone who was near the back of the line, though Robin and Lucina did not last long enough to make it my way. Instead, I grabbed Jigglypuff and Silver Mario, checked out at the customer service desk, and bolted out of there. It was time to figure out my next move.

Mad ‘Miibo: Fury Road

Now what do I do? Dare I chance waiting in front of Toys R Us again only to come away empty handed? Or should I choose a Best Buy in hopes that they’ll have Lucina and Robin there? Perhaps I’d have better luck with a GameStop location, a retail chain that actually posted their stock numbers outside the door prior to release. I ultimately decided to try my hand at Toys R Us, though I made a point to stop at other Targets on the way through in case I stumbled upon a hidden gold mine. I didn’t.

When I drove past Toys R Us, I saw a line that was in the neighborhood of 20 or 30 deep. Meanwhile, on the other side of the highway, was Best Buy who didn’t have a single person outside of the door. Well, Toys R Us is definitely out, but is Best Buy really the best option? Maybe they’re not getting anything and that’s why no one is waiting? But how would they know? I needed to make a decision and fast. I decided to stop at the nearby GameStop. It turned out they were only getting one of each amiibo and there were already two people in line. Well, there goes that idea. Could check a different one though, right?…

… And so I did. Several, in fact. “Looks like this store’s getting… none. Dammit! How about this one? Wait, they don’t have their numbers posted?!? Why the hell… wait, they closed this location? When did this happen?!? No time to panic, gotta keep moving.” I ended up way up north by the time it was all said and done. The GameStop I finally ended at didn’t have their numbers posted either, but I saw employees on the inside.

GameStop: “What can I do for you?”
Me: “What does your amiibo stock look like?”
GameStop: “Which ones are you looking for?”
Me: “Robin and Lucina.”
GameStop: “Well, we have our numbers posted at the other entrance (note: I always forget this location has a back entrance). But there are about four people in their cars that have already claimed them. Toys R Us doesn’t look quite so promising either as there are about 20-30 people in line over there (note: FFFFUUUUU…) Maybe try Best Buy?”

Yes, of course! It was almost ten and I wouldn’t be able to make it anywhere else in time. Best Buy was my last sanctuary. I rushed across the street to see that there were four people ahead of me. This isn’t looking good for me. But again, I was out of time. I had to grin and bear it no matter the outcome.

Another amiibo collector rolled up behind me wearing a Xenoblade Chronicles shirt (same as me!) Almost out of reflex he said “Oh, don’t worry about me. I already got Lucina and Robin. I’m just looking for Meta Knight as I heard he was getting a restock today.” A restock, you say? This could work out for me after all. I know people who need Meta Knight. Even if I couldn’t help myself, I could help someone else. And if there was a two amiibo limit, I could get another as trade fodder.

Eventually, a Best Buy employee exited the store and started handing out tickets. They only got two Lucina, but they did get a whopping eleven Robin. I wasn’t going home empty handed after all. As we waited to be let inside, the person directly in front of me checked his phone and exclaimed to everybody that his friend was at Toys R Us and that there are probably fifty Greninja there. “Holy shit!” I thought to myself. “Time to speed back over there after this is done!” So I was handed my Robin amiibo, checked out quickly, and hopped into my car and sped off.


Redemption

As I pulled into the Toys R Us parking lot, I slammed my car into park and took off running towards the store. Yes, I broke several traffic laws and then proceeded to sprint into a retail store to get a $13 toy. This is what I’ve become.

A nice lady at the front door was handing out tickets. “Here for amiibos?” she said. I nodded. “Which ones do you need?” “Greninja and Lucina.” “Here’s one for Greninja, but I’m all out of Lucina.” she said as she handed me a ticket for Greninja. This is it! I did it! After all of the suffering, I’ve obtained a Greninja! Though as I got closer and closer to the cash register, the Greninja stock was in view and beginning to dwindle. Did they hand out too many tickets? Am I actually going to get this thing? I honestly couldn’t tell. Once I finally got up to the register, I handed off my ticket and was handed the second to last one that they had in store. Close call.

And with that done, what to do now? I think I did pretty damn good having gotten three out of the four that I was looking for. But what about Lucina? I frantically started dialing the phone number to the closest Target. The dude on the phone was incredibly helpful, having looked at any potential stock close by. No go. In fact, he indicated that there were none left in the state. The same was true for Best Buy, GameStop and Wal-Mart. That’s when I remembered: I got an e-mail from Amazon stating that they’d sell Lucina during a designated window later that night. I still had a shot.

I decided to pack it in that day and get my F5 finger warmed up.

AmaZOMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

The window for Lucina, according to Amazon, was going to be between 3:30-4:00pm PST. They were even kind enough to provide a link to the listing, which I promptly pulled up and began hammering F5. I also pulled up Twitter on my phone so I could potentially be alerted if it pops before I see it or if something happens. My fiance got her computer ready as well and got to F5ing away. Five minutes passed. Then ten. Then fifteen. Nothing was appearing. One particular Twitter account alerted me that Lucina was live. There was only one problem: neither of us could see the change. I tried the link on my phone and was taken to a page where Lucina was listed, plain as day, as $12.99. It wouldn’t allow me to add to cart. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what. Surely, Lucina couldn’t have sold out without the page even reflecting that she was available, could it?

But that’s exactly what happened. Lucina was gone in a flash. Ten to fifteen seconds from what I was told. I never even had a chance. It was right then that I saw the official Amazon Twitter account indicate that Lucina was all sold out.

Now I was doubly screwed. Remember that Marth restock that was supposed to happen? GameStops have been getting him in over the last few weeks and he isn’t any less difficult to find. Ike reprints are being used to fulfill pre-orders from back in February. Desperation finally took hold. As did my eBay account. Instead of sitting there in shock I found the cheapest Lucina I could muster from eBay and clicked Buy It Now. Fortunately, I got in before the price began to skyrocket. The fact remains though that I had to turn to resellers to get what I needed, even though I told myself that I wouldn’t. At least I can say Wave 4 is complete, so I guess that’s something?

Wave 5 and Beyond

Now that the worst has passed, I can breathe a sigh of relief. For the most part anyway. Wave 5 went up for pre-order via Amazon UK not too long ago and I was able to secure those. Or at least some of them. After the initial wave, they stopped allowing you to have them shipped internationally. Still, the order I’d already placed is secure and there’d only be a couple more I’d have to get on my own. Ones that, I’d argue, will be pretty easy to obtain (Dr. Mario and Bowser Jr.) That should keep my blood pressure low for at least a few months.

Obtaining amiibos hasn’t been any less of a hellish feat and despite my rantings about how stupid this is in the last volume, I’ve managed to stick with it. This last outing, for all the chaos involved, was far more enjoyable this time around. There were still lines to wait in, but the thrill of driving from store to store hoping to find what you are looking for has not been completely lost. That is the silver lining in all of this. And with that said, I’d like to thank the retail employees for having to deal with people like me. If I was on the other side of the exchange, I would DREAD amiibo launch day.

And shame on Nintendo for still under-producing these things. I realize they’re very successful for you and you’re making money hand over fist, but you’re still the bad guy in this situation. Your “we didn’t anticipate this demand!” and “we’re not a toy company!” excuses don’t fly anymore. Sorry.

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  • Shame on Nintendo for still under-producing these things? Why shouldn’t they? You guys keep enforcing this kind of behavior! They sell out every single time they release new ones or do a restock. Why not continue to capitalize on the system that’s clearly working for them?

  • Mark B.

    Because it profits off of short-term gains at the cost of long-term bad will. Nintendo’s in no position to piss off its languishing fanbase as it is, and considering how many public figures have shit all over them for it, sooner or later it’s going to bite them in the ass, hard.

  • I mean, yeah, sure, I’m not saying that this is a good idea on Nintendo’s part. It just annoys me that the very people complaining about this are the same ones who buy into it time and time again. It’s one thing to say, “This is a crap practice and I won’t support it,” and another entirely to say, “This is a crap practice but I’m still going to run around to like ten different stores to gobble up whatever I can get.” Either you’re supporting it or you aren’t. You don’t get to complain about it but then contribute to the problem. Nintendo isn’t going to learn from this if you keep filling their pockets when they pull stunts like this.

  • Not only that, but they’re leaving potential profits in the hands of scalpers. When your sell through rate of several figures is 100%, that’s great from a “don’t have to store this shit in a warehouse” standpoint, but you’re also leaving money on the table. They could ramp up production exponentially and still make a killing off of these. Hunks of plastic aren’t expensive to produce.

  • That’s like saying that because I use Comcast, I don’t have a right to complain about their service. Who else is producing official Earthbound merchandise? Fire Emblem? If a company is providing a product that I want to buy (and is the only provider of that product), but makes it difficult to do so, I don’t see the problem in voicing that concern.

    Besides, if I choose not to buy a particular amiibo, someone else will step in who will (and probably make money doing so). Nintendo will not learn a lesson unless the entire fanbase collectively stops buying them, or they stop becoming profitable for resellers, which I don’t foresee happening so long as there is content in games locked behind them. Yeah, I do some crazy shit to get them, but it makes for a good story and is as mildly entertaining as it is frustrating.

  • Mark B.

    Well yeah, I mean they could essentially double their output on most of the Amibos and still run out of stock on them, frankly; I get that it makes them look popular and keeps the products notable in the marketplace, but it ALSO has the side effect of, well, making gamers flip the hell out to the point where it becomes something of an embarrassing PR nightmare after the tenth “famous” gamer says Nintendo is a bunch of assholes.

  • In this day and age, you need internet. Besides, a lot of people DO switch internet service providers when they get screwed over enough by their current one. Some sue. So I don’t think that is a great analogy.

    You don’t need collector items. And the argument, “If I don’t do it, someone else will,” doesn’t hold up either. It’s a common “bad move” in argument. I’ll just leave this here as an explanation: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2002/if-i-dont-do-it-somebody-else-will/

    If enough people got fed up enough to not buy into it, yeah, it would work. But if you aren’t willing to be the person to do it, then you really don’t have room to complain. Sure, you have the “right” to. But I’m not gonna take it seriously when you do, lol. I mean, yeah, I want Amiibos too. I would love to get the Legend of Zelda, Fire Emblem, and Pokemon ones. But I refuse to buy into the system that Nintendo has set up. If someone has one they’d like to sell for a decent price, or I run across one at a store I’m not camping out at, or if someone wants to give me one, sure. But I refuse to do this whole refreshing webpages in the middle of the night or wasting my gas (well, in my case, bus card money) and time hunting these down, because that’s what Nintendo wants. So they don’t get my money, unless what they have is available in a reasonable manner.

  • Considering that Comcast has what is essentially a monopoly in my area in terms of internet providers (that doesn’t run at the speed of, say, dial-up), I’d say it’s a perfect analogy. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, just because it’s not something I HAVE to have or NEED to have, doesn’t suddenly invalidate my concerns. If I want to buy X thing, but can’t do so easily, being able to say “I managed to buy this thing but it really sucked to do so” is no less legitimate than someone who says “I wanted to buy this thing, but couldn’t, so I’m out.” A normal company should be able to say “We’re selling out of this thing that we’re using to lock out content in our games, maybe we should make some more” rather than “We’re selling out of this thing, let’s change absolutely nothing and let eBay have our money instead” which I feel is a perfectly reasonable thought to have.