Could Sony and Microsoft have their own Amiibos?
The little plastic toy trade is going well for Activision, Disney and Nintendo, filling the coffers in a way that few franchises manage to do. Should Microsoft and Sony get in while they still can?
There are two knee-jerk reactions to this idea, and it’s important to deal with them early. First of all, the “I’d rather they focussed on games” argument, which only works if you think there are a vastly finite number of people who want to work at a big software developer. These figurines wouldn’t have to take away from the more adult games we know and love, but they might just add some financial clout to projects that just can’t get off the ground.
The second is a deeper problem, and one that’s been going back as long as Smash Brothers has been a thing. Does Sony and, in particular, Microsoft have enough familiar characters to pull off any sort of promotional “all in” campaign like this?
The initial answer would be no. PlayStation All-Stars proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter which characters get put in, people actually want Cloud Strife, Crash Bandicoot and Lara Croft. They don’t care about the reality of how and why things are the way they are, and they’re not going to be impressed by some vague Japanese character they’ve never played as.
Microsoft are in an even tougher position, because aside from Master Chief and a handful of others, their original characters are extremely limited and all cut from the same cloth. Sure, you could make a list of fifty characters that could make an appearance, but really it would boil down to “Army man with guns,” “regular guy with guns,” and “fantasy character from a seven year old game.” Familiarity with the sort of people that buy figurines begins and ends more or less with Halo and Gears of War.
But the point is that these characters do exist, and, as with the Amiibos, you just have to limit numbers to a sensible amount.
That’s why the Amiibos have been so successful: they are toys and models first and foremost, with additional functionality for games. They’re well made, they’re relatively cheap and they’re rare as hell.
So it doesn’t matter that you’ve released a model of some random character from Heavenly Sword, because there will be people to use them.
The question isn’t so much should they do them – because there’s no reason not to when there’s a market that would buy decent plastic replicas of their favourite gaming characters – but what they’d do with them.
There aren’t cutesy games where you can change costumes to make your character look like another. There aren’t party games where space bounty hunters and knights battle it out at a Pokemon stadium. You can severely limit use, but that never sold anything.
So I expect someone somewhere is looking to do something hardcore with the Amiibo thing, promoting them as models first and additional features later. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up on – they just have to pick and choose which parts of the toys to bring across and which to develop and make more unique.