by Doc – Owner, Founder, Spends Too Much Time Thinking About Amiibo
Nintendo has figured out what their purpose is with amiibo, and Metroid: Dread finally proves it to us.
Two Factions Trying to Agree
Amiibo has always been split into two factions – the collectors and the players. The collectors don’t care about what the players want. They just keep their amiibo in the box and put them on display. The players don’t usually collect. They have a few games that they like to use amiibo in, and that’s about it.
Nintendo has always been trying to decide which of these factions to meet the desires of. With Smash 4 and Ultimate, the amiibo are rife with gameplay potential, as they’re functioning AI that can be trained to fight opponents (the original purpose of this website, incidentally). With games like Animal Crossing, it’s far more about collection. After all, there’s 400 amiibo cards out there, so you’d better collect the villagers you like.
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Consider this from the perspective of Nintendo: the executives want to keep the collectors happy, because collectors will buy whatever you slap an amiibo label on. Might I remind you that Super Mario Cereal existed? Nintendo has always been good at finding excuses to print up new amiibo, ranging from 400 Animal Crossing amiibo cards to putting out an amiibo for BOXBOY!, a game you would never have heard of without the Qbby amiibo.
The developers, meanwhile, are focused on the gameplay, and they have to keep the players happy with good gameplay uses for amiibo. This is a lot harder. Most Nintendo games are developed within a schedule, and amiibo functionality is very rarely added on as DLC (New Leaf’s Welcome amiibo update is the only exception I can think of). It simply takes too many resources to create a use for amiibo that avoids breaking gameplay difficulty, but also adds something to the gameplay.
Historically, Nintendo has sided in favor of the collectors/executives. After all, it’s easier to put an NTAG chip on something than it is to develop a satisfying use for it in a game. This has the result of having far more amiibo than amiibo that have a decent use – after all, how many Mario amiibo unlock the exact same bonus effect in Mario Odyssey? Eight amiibo do the same exact thing.
Metroid: Dread ends this mess. Thank God.
Let’s survey the field of Metroid Dread’s amiibo. We’ve got:
- 2 amiibo that are high-quality figures (appealing to collectors)
- Amiibo aren’t broken but aren’t worthless in the actual game’s benefits (appealing to players)
- Only 2 amiibo, not one, not more than two (appealing to collectors & players)
The first point is, as labeled, going to appeal to collectors. Collectors love amiibo because they look cool and are, well, nifty. It’s hard to put into words why collectors love amiibo, but hey, we do, and the Samus & EMMI amiibo have whatever it is that we love.
The second point is for the players. If you’re playing Metroid: Dread, you don’t want the game to be so hard that you have to buy a $16 amiibo to win. You also want there to be some use for the amiibo that you may have bought because you love Metroid. It’s a rock and a hard place, and Metroid: Dread balances it well.
The third point is one of the few points where collectors and players can both agree. Collectors want multiple amiibo per game – after all, it gives them more to collect. But there’s also such a thing as too many amiibo – how many collectors got all 400 of the Animal Crossing amiibo cards?
Players have the same premise. They’re buying the game because they like the game, and they’re buying amiibo because they like the game. If you’re putting out more amiibo than they can reasonably purchase, they’ll feel like the game isn’t complete, but won’t buy the missing amiibo. So putting out 2-3 amiibo is really the perfect number.
In other words, Nintendo has engineered Metroid Dread’s amiibo release so well that it may be the first game that can successfully meet the desires of both types of amiibo fans.