For the next few weeks, I am going to be posting an amiibo mini-series covering a more in-depth look at the phenomena that are amiibo. When the Wii U was first introduced, the unique aspects are the new system were very intriguing. One such aspect of the Wii U was the NFC functionality that Nintendo promised would be utilized. However, at launch, there was little by way of details on how the NFC built into the Gamepad would actually be used. We did see some concepts in a pre-launch “leaked” video that showed off “new tech” for the then-exclusive Rayman Legends.
Since then, we have gotten to see an evolution of the Gamepad and the eventual release of several waves of amiibo with several more already announced. These figures have come to the market, and taken it by storm. Many fans, have developed a love-hate relationship with amiibo for reasons of their own understanding, but one thing no one can ever deny, is that Nintendo has created something that has been overwhelmingly profitable for the company. And any true fan of Nintendo has to see that as a great thing, no matter their personal feelings about amiibo.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about Nintendo DNA, and their mission to put smiles on the faces of everyone whom Nintendo touches.
Nintendo’s mission as an entertainment company is to make people happy and surprise them by achieving goals that seem impossible to the average person within a few years.
Now, we want to take a look at what has gone into creating the explosion that is the amiibo phenomenon. As things go, Nintendo has put an amazing amount of work into creating them and hopefully ensuring their longevity beyond fad-status. The foundation that Nintendo created for amiibo has been laid for decades now, and that is sure to help solidify their place in the market for quite some time.
Since we launched Family Computer in 1983, Nintendo has produced a variety of iconic characters, such as Mario and Donkey Kong, which are loved by people around the world regardless of their generation. In November 2014, we utilized this rich lineup of Nintendo characters and launched the “amiibo” series of character figures that can connect with our games.
With such a solid background in game development, Nintendo has been moving more and more into expanding their reach into the marketplace. For a company whose main focus is, and will continue to be games, amiibo have been created in order to bring more people to their games.
Tell us about the development background for these amiibo figures that connect with games.
Yamamoto Nintendo has cared about “connections” between people from the start. We have been pursuing the potential of new entertainment while focusing on making people smile. However, when the game system’s power is turned off, the game world disappears. We had been thinking about whether there was another way to somehow connect the game world with the real world.
Onishi In addition to the things you can do with the main part of the game, we had been searching for a possible way to connect with our consumers by using items that exist outside of the game.
Yamamoto We thought that it made sense for Nintendo to create character merchandise because it would create a means for consumers to connect to our games in the real world by creating physical items for consumers to touch and feel the appeal of the game world all the time. Based on this idea, the project members and other stakeholders spent time on the overall concept of amiibo, discussing such things as which characters Nintendo should introduce to the world or what kind of approach we should take.
What were your initial thoughts about creating amiibo, Nintendo’s first character products?
Onishi We initially considered things such as the basis of each character’s appeal, how we could bring out that appeal and which pose each character should strike to maximize that appeal. I used to be involved in supervising the process for other companies to use Nintendo characters but, in a complete turnaround, we are now in a position to create 3D figures ourselves. We closely examined each character’s image and how we could adequately convey this image to consumers.
Yamamoto amiibo also includes characters from other game developers, and since we are now in a position to borrow their precious assets, we wanted to respect each character and not damage its worldview when we made each 3D character image. We repeatedly visited the game developers in order to directly discuss and get a good understanding of which elements of the characters were important to them. By asking the developers their thoughts directly, our respect for the characters naturally increased. The more visits we made, the stronger we felt that we needed to get to know each character.
Onishi We felt that it was important to make sure that each character is loved equally beyond just their appearance and that, when consumers held them in their hands, they would really feel that it is the character they always had cherished. We paid particular attention to these aspects and went through a lot of debate and, as a result, this process ended up taking the most time.
Tell us about your expectations for amiibo.
Yamamoto Above all, we want amiibo to become something that people want to talk about with their friends and family. We want amiibo to spark conversations with people around them.
Onishi We want consumers to hold the characters in their hands in the real world and for these precious characters to remain in their memories forever. We hope that they cherish each one of these one-of-a-kind characters for a long time. We also would like amiibo to provide an opportunity for those who don’t normally play games to become acquainted with them. We want amiibo to act as a bridge that connects games and consumers so that consumers who are not necessarily interested in games are curious about the figures and pick them up when they are in the game corner of a retail store.
Yamamoto I don’t think the existing amiibo have completely created the world we aspire to build. Therefore, to ensure that amiibo is never just a figure, we would like to connect it with other entertainment Nintendo produces in the future. We will make improvements on amiibo and continue to evolve it in a way that expands the ring of communication between people, both inside and outside the game world.
Love them, hate them, or be indifferent about them, amiibo are here, and for good reason! Nintendo looked to create these figures as a means of connecting the Wii U console’s games to the real world, and in-turn, have created something that is a bit bigger than that.
As always, gaming is meant to be fun, so keep gaming!!
- Yoichi Yamamoto – Software Planning & Development Department Nintendo Co., Ltd.
- Yo Onishi – Character Design Group Software Planning & Development Department Nintendo Co., Ltd.