by Doc – Owner, Founder, Not Qualified to Just Call Himself “Doctor” Once Amiibo Ends
We’re at well over seven years of amiibo at this point, and there’s no information that indicates amiibo will end anytime soon. While Nintendo has certainly trickled down the number of amiibo they’re releasing, we’re still getting periodic reprints and the occasional new amiibo every few months, whenever a game calls for it.
The Purpose of amiibo
I think Nintendo has finally figured out what they want to do with amiibo – sell them alongside a new game, and otherwise reprint old amiibo when the data indicates it could be beneficial. That’s why we got the Sanrio amiibo card reprint in America. New Horizons had whittled down its pandemic player base to just the hardcore fans, and those fans were perfectly willing to buy amiibo cards to get their favorite villagers. Sanrio was the perfect choice of amiibo to release to the American audience because of several factors, so they did.
But now that Nintendo’s e-reader experiment has finally succeeded, when do they close it down? Nintendo has a history of running projects for long after they’re not profitable anymore, such as, well, the entire Wii U project. When will the sun finally set on amiibo?
It’s clear that Nintendo is making money off of amiibo – if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have bothered to keep making them after BOTW released and sold a gazillion amiibo. Hell, even for C-list series like Metroid, we’re getting amiibo. It’s clear they figured out how to make it worthwhile.
As best as I can tell, being someone with no connection or contact to Nintendo’s decision-making in any way, amiibo will definitely not end before the Nintendo Switch ends. The question, then, is when does the Switch end? It’s four years old, still selling an impressive number of units, and just had its mid-life crisis announced, the Switch OLED. It’s hard to see an end to the Nintendo Switch coming anytime soon, especially with new hardware on the way.
The last time we were in this situation, this situation being a popular console that had a large install base, was the Nintendo Wii. Ninty kept it going for seven full years before finally moving onto the Wii U. That’s probably intentional, too – the time between the NES and SNES was seven years.
So with seven minus four being three, we can probably bank on amiibo being supported for at least another three years, through the end of 2024ish. However…
What About The Next Console?
Amiibo has sold pretty well through the Wii U and 3DS era, and sold phenomenally well through the Switch era thus far, and it’s probably because of the success of the 3DS and Switch consoles, with some credit given to Smash for carrying early on. However, these consoles don’t last forever, and Nintendo will eventually want to move to a new install base. This is when we have to consider the finances required to support amiibo on a new console.
Here’s the thing: NFC readers are expensive as hell in commercial, high-grade environments that Nintendo occupies. Nintendo’s controller components are rarely poor quality unless it’s an experimental design (i.e. Joy-Cons’ bad stick design causing drift), and Ninty has definitely moved past NFC reading controllers being an experiment. So Nintendo is going to require high quality NFC readers.
Take a look at this:
This is basically what the Powersaves for Amiibo is, although Datel’s product has cut a lot of costs without cutting functionality (such as making the cord removable and only scanning NTAG215 chips). That sucker is 45 Europe Bucks (or $53 in August 2021 money), and all it does is read NTAG chips and a few other types of chip.
Now I don’t doubt that Nintendo probably uses a specially-manufactured NFC reader designed for them that only has to read NTAG215 chips. I anticipate that would cut a lot of costs when buying in bulk, and keep the NFC reader technology from being prohibitively expensive. NTAG215 chips are cheaper than dirt and take very simple technology to read, so they also chose that product well.
That doesn’t change that the Wii U gamepad, Pro Controller, Joy-Cons and other amiibo-compatible are still expensive as hell, far more costly than Nintendo’s previous experimental controllers. The Wii Remote cost $40 for most of its lifetime – the Wii U gamepad, $80. The Joy-Con, $80 as well. You can make the argument that the Wii U introduced the screen, and that increased the cost of the controller significantly. You can make the argument that the new tech in the Joy-Con also increased the price significantly.
I don’t think that’s the case. I think that a good chunk of the cost of Nintendo’s controllers is amiibo compatibility – after all, the Pro Controller for both consoles is pretty expensive too, and it doesn’t have the experimental technology of those controllers.
Including amiibo compatibility means that you have to include NFC readers, and NFC readers are, as I’ve been saying for the last several paragraphs, very, very expensive. Thus, it’s entirely possible that Nintendo cuts out amiibo in the next console to cut costs on the controllers and on development time. If Nintendo is going to kill amiibo, that’s probably why they’d do it.
I don’t think it makes financial sense to kill this product line – amiibo is almost certainly a highly profitable venture, having sold 39 million figures and 30 million cards alone as of 2017, not to mention the Switch amiibo sales that have come since. Just the revenue from those figures alone is a half billion dollars, never mind the significantly cheaper to produce cards factoring in as well. Considering the cost of plastic figure is probably not very high, and Nintendo is definitely buying NTAG215 chips by the millions, they’ve probably been buying in bulk to reduce costs since day one.
But hey, this is the same company that shut down Miiverse, the best social media platform in history, so anything can happen.