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The new amiibo line from Nintendo is their ace in the hole for the slowly improving Wii U. What is amiibo? It’s a type of smart toy made by Nintendo — a line of toys that comes with on-board electronics to send and receive data from the game you are playing. It’s similar to the Skylanders and Disney Infinity figures, but with one huge difference: While the others are limited to the games they were made for and require special peripherals to communicate with the system, amiibos can be used across multiple Wii U titles by simply touching them to the game pad.
This added element of cross-game usage is what makes the amiibos really stick out. They allow players to receive bonuses for having data from multiple games. They could be used as a form of trophies, which the Wii U currently lacks, that serve more purpose than an ego boost. Potentially being rewarded with in-game perks for your accomplishments on the Wii U is an appealing benefit for trophy hunters and casuals alike. According to an interview with Reggie Fils-Aime, developers will be able to add benefits of their own design to games through amiibos. For example, a developer could grant a character in his game enhanced hand to hand capabilities because the player has an amiibo with information recorded from Super Smash Bros. If this is true, the applications of the amiibos are only limited by the imagination and creativity of a game’s developers and the value they assign to recorded data.
It also helps that there’s already a lot of interest in the amiibo. With the market for smart toys growing at such a rapid pace, Nintendo has put itself in great position with the amiibo. They are the only first-party developer to have hardware with this compatibility built in, circumventing the need for peripherals or other start-up investments by potential customers. All that remains to be seen is how Nintendo handles the marketing for their secret weapon and if they can manage enough support for it while struggling to put out a substantial number of releases for the Wii U.
With Nintendo providing the necessary hardware, developers can tap into this market without having to invest in their own peripherals like the Skylanders portal. One can imagine that Nintendo hopes to entice interested parties into working with them by lowering the cost of entry to this relatively new market. Provided the amiibo takes off, Nintendo may finally earn the outside support the Wii U so desperately needs.
Nintendo is currently working hard to change the image of their latest console from a dead flop to a potential success. Mario Kart 8 and E3 have started this shift, Hyrule Warriors needs to keep it going, and amiibo must make it come to fruition: The smart toy could be seen as the final stand for the Wii U. All eyes will be on Nintendo this holiday season. Can they bottle the lightning again?