Amiibo: Do the Figures Add Up? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Amiibo: Do the Figures Add Up?

With the release of the Super Mario cereal, Sam Nason talks about amiibo and tries to figure out if they are worth your time and money

Why on earth is the Super Mario Cereal not called Mari-O’s?

When rumours first started circulating that Nintendo were releasing a Super Mario cereal with amiibo functionality, two questions immediately arose - the first, why on earth was this Super Mario Cereal not called Mari-O’s? I mean the name just writes itself - poor effort Nintendo. The second, more pressing question, however was: was buying cereal now a requirement to gaining items in Super Mario Odyssey? With the cereal’s advertised amiibo functionality, would certain players now be at a disadvantage just because their daily breakfast doesn’t include power-up marshmallows and mixed berry greatness? Luckily, with an official press release from Nintendo we can see this isn’t the case as the box only gives coins and hearts in the game for a slight but not at all essential boost. Still, with this quite bizarre venture from Nintendo, it begs the question: have amiibo become unnecessarily expensive and excessive in Nintendo's current gaming landscape?


The figurines, first announced in a (rather hilarious) Super Smash Bros trailer at E3 2014, saw considerable market success, with shortages running rampant throughout the world due to consumer demand. This led to hoarders and scalpers selling the figures for insane prices, and amiibo gaining a reputation for being difficult to find and expensive to get. Three years later and it’s fair to say that, for the most part, Nintendo have solved the amiibo shortage out, and the vast majority are readily available for you to purchase for their asking price. Without having to worry about minimal supply and extortionate prices, we can now assess how worthwhile it actually is to collect these little figures for your games.

A primary factor of the initial amiibo marketing was their versatility; Nintendo said that the figures were great since their use wouldn’t be restricted to one game, and would resonate throughout a vast number of titles. For the most part, this has been true - especially with mascot figures like Mario and Link; amiibo have seen widespread use throughout a multitude of games, from Super Smash Bros to Mario Kart to Skyrim. Notably however certain amiibo figures, like Pikachu or Kirby, lack this specific versatility. The Mario and Link figures, for example, will very often unlock specific, exclusive in-game items such as Link's amiibo unlocking the Breath of the Wild Champion’s Tunic in Skyrim. Amiibo like Pikachu, however, are used with less incentive in mind, instead providing a generic amiibo award, if anything at all. In that sense, while the versatility of amiibo is no myth, some amiibo are definitely more versatile than others and, for a gamer stretched for cash, buying certain figures is a waste when they won’t reap as many benefits as others.

amiibo collection

Another mainstream appeal of buying amiibo is to create a collection, with many people going to extravagant lengths to show off their stash of figures. In some ways this is nice - one may argue that collecting amiibo is no different to collecting, say, Pokémon cards or Ray-Ban sunglasses. Collecting anything is immensely satisfying and lining up amiibo on your shelf is certainly nothing to be ashamed of because, let’s be honest, no matter your stance on them they’re nice looking and well made figurines. It’s clear to see why they have such a large following in collecting communities due to all the different kinds and interesting characters to find.

No matter your stance on amiibo they’re nice looking and well made figurines

When asking a friend what they liked about amiibo, their answer was that it provided merchandise for obscure franchises you perhaps wouldn’t be able to find anything for elsewhere. Thinking about it, this reigns true - with figures like the glorious Captain Falcon, Ness from Earthbound and Chibi-Robo, amiibo provide a catalyst for Nintendo to give some love to long-neglected franchises that the fans love but can’t find any reasonably priced or good quality merchandise for.

amiibo collection

Of course, the last two points are purely cosmetic, the larger fact remains that amiibo only retain a certain degree of usefulness dependant on the figure and the game. A common argument amongst some is that amiibo unnecessarily lock out content just so people have to fork over more money to buy a figure to unlock it like some kind of overly elaborate DLC method. The counter to this (which I’m still undecided about) is that the figures aren’t for one specific purpose in one specific game but rather for unlocking different content over a multitude of games. Examples of this content-locking, however, were especially prominent in the original Splatoon on the Wii U, where a number of missions using different weapons were locked behind amiibo walls, and Mario Party 10, where a traditional party mode was locked behind the necessity for amiibo. While Nintendo has certainly got better at moderating this now - amiibo usage in Super Mario Odyssey ranges from unlocking outfits early that could be unlocked normally anyway to gaining hints for finding moons, suffice to say that the argument that amiibo locked content was a valid one.

Are certain players now at a disadvantage just because their daily breakfast doesn’t include power-up marshmallows and mixed berry greatness?

Finally we come to price, another point that sees constant debate. While amiibo theoretically have a recommended retail price (somewhere around the £10-£15 mark), looking on various retail sites will net you a myriad of different amounts. They can be extremely costly to buy in large amounts and to collectors this is especially lethal. For example, the Waluigi amiibo, as beautifully lanky as it is, is being sold for £60 on GAME while I’m writing this. This defeats the whole purpose of the fun, collectible amiibo, as many are simply too expensive for the common consumer to afford. This is a great shame too since the less conventional amiibo are the ones people might want the most, yet they are the rarest and sell for the highest prices. While the figures are, no doubt, very well made, they’re certainly not £60 well made.

It’s clear to see then that there’s no one definitive answer to the amiibo question. I know just as many collectors who cherish their collection as I do people who despise the things. Personally, I feel the positives of amiibo outweigh the negatives, especially at the point where the figures do not add game-changing features and any content they unlock can be unlocked through other means. To that end there is no pressure for anybody to buy one, rather, they act as an incentive if players wish to have some pretty cool figures and some help in-game. I have three amiibo figures myself but I can’t see myself getting any others, just because I really don’t feel there’s any need for me to. A lot of Nintendo titles nowadays offer rewards simply for tapping any amiibo as opposed to a specific one which is much more friendly to the gamer who can perhaps only afford one or two. My advice would be to get a variation of the Mario amiibo - certainly the most versatile - and, if you like the look and use of the figure, build your collection from there. And, while there’s no confirmation of Mari-O’s (I refuse to call them anything else) coming over to the UK, I will sit back in excitement at the prospect of a cereal box joining Ness, Mario and Inkling on my gaming shelf.

First Year English and Drama student, conquering one game at a time in between! (@samjnason)


15th December 2017 at 9:00 am

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