Why Nintendo Should Avoid Official Amiibo Tournaments

by Doc – Owner, Founder, Has a Lot to Gain if Nintendo Doesn’t Listen to Him

The other day, an announcement came out that Nintendo was partnering with Panda Global to have a real, official Smash Ultimate competitive circuit. This is pretty cool – competitive Smash has always wanted some attention, at least a head nod, from Ninty. Now they’re finally getting it.

Nintendo has also brushed with recognizing amiibo fighting before. Longtime amiibo trainers will recall the amiibo Tag Team Tourney, a three-day event where all online battles were Team Battles with yourself and your amiibo against someone else and their amiibo. It was tons of fun, but I also worked that weekend, so I didn’t get to enjoy it much.

However, without massive overhauls of nearly every aspect of amiibo, there is no possibility of official amiibo tournaments being a success. Here’s why:

Terry amiibo

Amiibo is Inherently Unfair

Go look at the competitive amiibo tier list. Odds are, if new amiibo haven’t eclipsed him in the months since this post, Incineroar is still in the highest position on the list. He’s been the undisputed best in the game since his introduction to the world of amiibo, and he’ll probably be there forever.

Below him, you’re probably going to see a lot of heavyweights – Bowser, King K. Rool, Terry and Byleth currently occupy S tier. And below them, you’ll see some slightly less-heavy heavyweights.

That’s how amiibo fighting operates. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best amiibo trainer in the whole darn world, you’re still not going to outperform somebody with an amiibo higher on the tier list in most cases. And the tier list is pretty much determined by three factors:

  • Is your amiibo a heavyweight?
  • Does it have some sort of AI-breaking gimmick?
  • Is your amiibo a heavyweight with some sort of AI-breaking gimmick?

Good luck winning with an amiibo that isn’t heavy!

King K. Rool amiibo

Amiibo Is Pay-To-Win

If Nintendo did an official amiibo tournament, there would be two formats they would probably use.

  1. Built-in Online Tournament function like the Amiibo Tag Tournament
  2. In-Person Tournaments where you bring your amiibo figure

Option #1 allows anyone to use any amiibo, and that includes fanmade amiibo. It’s plausible that Nintendo could do something like this, but I’m doubtful of that – they have a preference for the final rounds of tournaments being in-person, even if the earlier rounds were all online. This was the case in Nintendo’s “NintendoVS” Smash tournaments that were held before and after the COVID quarantines in the United States, and it’s probable that Nintendo will continue using the organizational format they’ve already created.

Option #2 would require people to show up in-person, where Nintendo could easily see that you’re not using a Nintendo-made amiibo. Let’s be real here – if you enter a Nintendo tournament, you’re not going to be able to use a quarter-sized NTAG chip that you made into an amiibo. They’ll require you to have an official figure.

If people also want to win, they’ll need an official figure of high-tier amiibo. Effectively, you would either have the option of buying very expensive Incineroar (or whatever’s legal and highest on the tier list) amiibo from secondhand owners and having a shot at winning, or using any other amiibo and getting Alolan Whipped to death. Pay up or lose.

Amiibo Has No Balance

Let’s set aside the amiibo tier list itself for a second and only talk about the Spirits. As of this moment, there’s five universally banned spirits in amiibo tournaments, colloquially referred to as the “Big Five”. They are:

  • Armor Knight
  • Super Armor
  • Slow Super Armor
  • Great Autoheal
  • Autoheal

In addition to banning those two, Instadrop and Trade-Off Ability are sometimes banned as well, and there’s discussion of banning Critical Healing + Metal (the Pneuma spirit). There’s one big problem with this ban list.

If a single one of these options is unbanned, it immediately becomes the best spirit in the meta and dominates all other amiibo of equal or lesser ranking on the tier list. It’s a very rigid hierarchy – if Armor Knight is banned, Super Armor is the new top dog. If Super Armor is gone, Slow Super Armor is the new best. This list continues all the way down until you’ve banned the Big Five, Instadrop, Trade-Off Ability and Critical Healing + Metal. That’s a ban list of eight spirit effects. And all it takes is one guy to put Armor Knight on his Incineroar to win the tournament if they’re not banned.

Bear in mind that there’s no real counterpicks to these, either. It’s not like other fighting games where the best option still has drawbacks and weaknesses. The only counterpick for a spirit on this list is a spirit that’s higher on the list. If they’re banned, people would show up to the tournament and get disqualified in every single match for having illegal spirit effects. If they’re not banned, then Armor Knight Incineroar (or whatever’s highest on the hierarchy and still legal) wins everything.

Do you think, realistically, anyone would bother to learn all the banned spirit effects and train amiibo without them? No, of course not. That’s too many spirits to learn, especially for the children, and the children are the main market for amiibo.

But then, if Nintendo decides that all amiibo have to be vanilla (that is to say, non-spirited), you still have the problem listed in the first section.

Seems kinda pointless to do a tournament, doesn’t it? Well, it is.


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