Nintendo: Amiibo not mimicking competition

Scott Moffitt says Wii U figures may have broader appeal than Skylanders or Disney Infinity, genre should continue to grow

Nintendo has a long history of bucking industry trends and seeking out innovation, which is why it might have surprised some industry watchers with the announcement of Amiibo, its own take on the toys-to-life genre currently dominated by Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Speaking with GamesIndustry International at E3 last week, Nintendo of America executive vice president of sales and marketing Scott Moffitt framed it as another example of giving consumers a different way to experience gaming.

"That's what we will always do," Moffitt said. "We want to be different. We want to create innovation and Amiibo is a perfect example. We didn't just mimic what's been done before with Skylanders and Infinity, we are bringing out a whole new idea in this toys-to-life gaming segment."

Moffitt said Amiibo differs from the competition in a few key ways. For one, the characters will work with multiple games. The Amiibo line will launch later this year with Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U, but the figures will also be compatible with Mario Kart 8, Yoshi's Wooly World, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and Mario Party 10. Nintendo is also allowing third-party publishers to make their games compatible with Amiibo figures, and will introduce a 3DS peripheral to allow the figures to work with games on the handheld.

"Our IP is so well-known and so beloved by game fans of all ages that I do believe the age demographic for Amiibo could potentially be broader than that for the current offerings."

"We're trying to open up the aperture on toys-to-life to handheld gaming, to first-party games, to third-party games, and try to expand the category as quickly as we can and provide a different point of view in that segment," Moffitt said.

And since the toys are designed to work with the Wii U GamePad's near-field communications technology (NFC), console players won't need the separate portal peripherals of Skylanders or Infinity.

"It makes ours a great value as parents don't have to buy a starter kit," Moffitt said. "So that's a great value for parents. I don't know how many of those portals people are going to want underneath their TV, if seven different gaming companies come with their own toys-to-life offering. Maybe it's better if we standardize and there's one portal and we hope the GamePad could be that. We're already the destination of choice to play those games. Maybe everyone can align on using the NFC in the GamePad."

Amiibo will be launching into a market against the game that effectively created it in Skylanders, and an IP juggernaut that combines Pixar, Disney, Marvel (and potentially Star Wars) under one roof in Infinity. That's not even counting other possible entrants into the field, as the qualities Moffitt sees as the largest barriers to entry--game quality, retail shelf space, and marketing--should be familiar to any large gaming publisher. Even if Amiibo faces significant opposition, both in quality as well as quantity, Moffitt brushed aside any concerns of market saturation.

"Skylanders will be going into its fourth holiday this year, so the category's three-and-a-half years old and it's grown every year, roughly doubling every year," Moffitt said. "It's $1.4 billion in revenue this past year in the US alone. For the foreseeable future, I see this category continuing to grow. Our IP is so well-known and so beloved by game fans of all ages that I do believe the age demographic for Amiibo could potentially be broader than that for the current offerings."

Check back tomorrow for more from GamesIndustry's E3 interview with Moffitt.

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Latest comments (13)

Steve Wetz Reviewer/Assistant Editor, Gamer's Glance5 years ago
We didn't just mimic what's been done before with Skylanders and Infinity, we are bringing out a whole new idea in this toys-to-life gaming segment."
Right... now that you mention that, I see no similarity at all! #SARCASM

Nintendo, it's okay that you're attempting to capitalize on what has been very lucrative to other companies by introducing your own line. No one is looking down on you for that. Attempting to convince us otherwise with marketing, however... you may find a different reaction to that,
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd5 years ago
It's certainly broader than Disney's and Activision's vision for the toys-to-life market by a WIDE margin, but yes, obviously it's informed by them as well.
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Sybil Collas Narrative designer, Writer, Teacher 5 years ago
Pokemon *was* their line of entry with Pokemon Rumble. I currently can't think of any other game than Prodigy that tries to use the NFC technology for something else than a login.
There is so much more to do with this technology. I hope major publishers will stop to shy away from exploring the tech and try something new with it.
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Show all comments (13)
Cesar Hoffmann Translator 5 years ago
Surprised it took them this long tbh.
I imagined Pokemon would have been their entry into this area of gaming though.
But it was:
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Doug McFarlane Co-Owner, KodeSource5 years ago
Want to impress me Nintendo, and set yourself out from the crowd? Stop capitalizing (preying) on us (like Toys-to-Life) needlessly. I would only consider paying the cost of the figurine. Not this personalized data aspect. In 2014 - that should be a given, and free. Ever heard of the internet? The cloud?

When I use my WiiU, I want my personalized avatars / characters available in multiple games (like some games offer now). Difference between a Mii and a Amiibo: you can hold one in your hands. Just add stats to a Mii (umm - Mega Miis?) - now they are functionally the same. Or charge $30 for an Amiibo (or whatever it will cost) for the same thing, but look - it's pretty!. And people are suckers. (Is it hypocritical that I was disappointed they didn't offer a Luigi at predicted launch? Get out of my brain! Must . . buy . . now!)

But I can bring my Amiibo to my friends house! Dang - got me - no way to figure this one out! (did you note the sarcasm?). Have a name / password for each saved Mega Mii (stored in Nintendo's cloud). No matter where you are, you can download the stats (and appearance too). Or if you want to money grab - create a custom usb thumb drive (or blue tooth device) option to store your Mega Miis for portability (kinda like the Amiibo - but for multiple avatars). But then why couldn't you just use ANY thumb drive?

Or, better yet Nintendo, and I'm sure a lot of people will agree, actually create games for the WiiU! A concept that seems very secondary to your business model. Or at least loosen your Wii Shop developer requirements - there would be tons of indies out there willing to create for the WiiU. Just stop with this useless Amiibo novelty! Work on publishing Mario Party 10! Come on already! </rant>

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Doug McFarlane on 18th June 2014 7:29pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
@Doug: Well, Mario Party 10 is a reality: - so you got that wish at least... :^)
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
We didn't just mimic what's been done before with Skylanders and Infinity, we are bringing out a whole new idea in this toys-to-life gaming segment."
Interestingly enough Disney said the same thing as the lead up to Infinity's launch approached. And we all know how different that turned out.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
The funny thing is, Skylanders could be seen to be a MUCH more (or, ACTUALLY) successful version of Bandai's experiment with toys and gaming from the PSOne era:
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Tanya Rei Myoko Programmer 5 years ago
@Greg I own that.

I also own all the Pokemon rumble figures. I had to import them from the US at a high cost cause Nintendo screwed Canada over by not even selling them here out of revenge for Wii u not selling well here. Will they screw Canada over again?

And Nintendo needs to stop claiming others inventions for their own. They have a long history of it. They claim to have brought analog sticks and rumble to consoles when ps1 had a dual analog stick controller months before n64 came out, and immersion had rumble six months before nintendo
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Rob Fahey Columnist, GamesIndustry.biz5 years ago
The Dual Shock controller for the PlayStation didn't launch with the console; the original pad had no analogue sticks. The version with analogue sticks came out in Japan in November 1997, 18 months after the launch of the N64.

Immersion never sued Nintendo when they were taking game companies to court (they only sued Sony and Microsoft) because Nintendo's "Rumble Pak" uses a completely different technology from Immersion's. Nintendo filed patent for its rumble technology in 1995. Immersion didn't file a patent for its own version of rumble technology until 1998.

There are many, many valid ways to criticise Nintendo's business in recent years, but denying their history of innovation seems both unfair and unfounded.
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James Brightman Editor, North America, GamesIndustry.biz5 years ago
Very true Rob! This industry owes a lot to Nintendo.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
@greg my friends and I cobbled together our money and imported that game. It was very cool, and fu. The real limiting factor was that there were no dynamic updates, so you get the one set and that's it without pressing a new disc.
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Tanya Rei Myoko Programmer 4 years ago
@rob dualshock was ps1s fourth analog controller
Immersion still had rumble six months before nintendo
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