OK, Nintendo it’s been awhile since I wrote a letter to you, but it feels like now is a good time after you have done your absolute best to top the Xenoblade/Last Story debacle of ’11. Nintendo somehow continues to raise the bar in levels of ineptness; now with their handling of their new product called amiibo. What’s an amiibo? They’re mini-figures of Nintendo intellectual property. Mario, Link, Pikachu and dozens of others. Cool, right? Kids can play with them. Adults can collect them. Everyone’s happy! Right…right? Well, it’s never that simple with Nintendo anymore…
So what’s the problem exactly? Much like Beanie Babies, Furby, and Tickle Me Elmo before it, amiibos are in short supply. Take a quick glance on Amazon, many are completely out of stock or are fetching ridiculous prices. Shocker? Hardly. And that’s fine. Perfectly acceptable. No one is really debating that point. This happens during the holiday season. No big deal.
What has drawn the furious ire of the loyal gaming community is how Nintendo is reacting to this. Nintendo’s lack of clear communication on the shortages is so incredibly weak, it’s laughable. There are rumors of straight up discontinuation (after a MONTH, no less), amiibos being replaced with trading cards instead (are you f’ing serious?), and any attempt of clarification from Nintendo has been incredibly vague and awkward. There has not been a clear official statement on the matter, at best, it’s a “maybe they’ll be more…soon…ish…umm…maybe”? What the hell?! MAYBE?! One run of an item that can’t even be FOUND at retail stores? Nor preordered reliably? For God’s sake, Wave 3 is due to come out in late Jan / February and Nintendo had the bright idea to have retailer specific exclusives (Toys R Us, Best Buy, Target, Gamestop…*shudder*…Gamestop…), and…it’s impossible to preorder one month away! Target for example has been available for less than an hour…at 2AM EST! Madness…this is only going to get worse, not better.
Here is an email I received today after trying to purchase some Wave 2 figurines from Toys R Us:
This in itself isn’t what’s hilarious. This cancellation was after a prior cancellation email and a second opportunity given to users to purchase these items. That’s right. Toys R Us gave people a second chance to reorder items through an exclusive link…and they were still cancelled. Do you know what this means? It means Nintendo is screwing with retailers grasp on how much inventory they’re getting. There have been reports stores have been receiving 1 to 2 units of many of these figures. Insane.
Nintendo’s research in market dynamics is absolutely abysmal. It’s one thing to underestimate demand, it’s another thing to do so and then not replenish or allocate units correctly across different SKUs. This isn’t a ploy for marketing and hype, this is just incompetent management. Somehow, some peon somewhere thought, “Hey, we need to have Link, Pikachu, and Mario readily available at all times; let’s make 100 units of those for every 1 unit of everything else. Sorry Marth, Villager, Wii Fit Trainer, Fox, Samus, Pit, Little Mac, Diddy, Donkey Kong, Captain Falcon…there’s no way anybody will want you guys”.
Wait…what’s that? Europe and Japan DO NOT HAVE THESE PROBLEMS? Wow! No way! People have had to resort to ordering from German Amazon to buy these figures. Thank heavens Nintendo didn’t region-lock these things (as they normally do). So again, this isn’t Nintendo being cute to artificially try to drive up demand, this is piss-poor market research and execution, with terrible public relations management to boot.
Nintendo’s struggles with Wii U are well chronicled (i.e. it’s not selling well), so when amiibo were announced, many saw this as a potential turnaround for the company to start to drive interest in Wii U and obtain a new revenue stream. How could this not work? Disney and Activision has proven there is an interest (and a huge market) in this area. It’s baffling to see such a gold mine of profits just…thrown away? Why, Nintendo? Why do you always manage to screw up the simplest shit? It’s insane! You want money, people want these things. Why does it need to be this complicated? Instead, scalpers are selling these things for 5x the price. Hope you’re happy! That’s profits you’re not seeing AND pissing off your customers.
Do you know how Nintendo can fix this? Issue a clear statement statement saying, “We realize there is enormous demand for our amiibo products, and we will ensure that anyone that wishes to obtain their favorite character will be given the opportunity to do so, no matter what. We will take any measure necessary to ensure that our customers are completely satisfied”. That’s it. That’s all they have to say.
Should we start making calls to Operation Rainfall for you to fix this? I mean you eventually ended up releasing Xenoblade in the US after months and months of hounding (but I had no faith, so you forced me to import from the UK…thanks again for that). This situation just feels…completely different. The community shouldn’t have to voice complaints over this one Nintendo. This is really just common freaking sense.
Here’s what I wrote in 2011 after Nintendo’s mishandling of Xenoblade:
I have literally lost all will to support you Nintendo. Honestly, this is the beginning of the end for you. You’re chasing a market that’s going to destroy you. The casuals will NOT stand by you. They will leave and you will be left with nothing. Mark my words. You are done. And it’s so sad…
My how appropriate this comment still resonates today. What happened with the Wii U Nintendo? Oh, the casuals left you. As they always do. So what have you been doing since then? Continuing to piss off your loyal hardcore fanbase. Congrats, you’ve learned nothing. amiibo was a “layup”, and somehow you airballed it. Bravo!
So what’s going to end up happening? Well, I believe Nintendo will finally start ramping up more production, because I honestly don’t believe a company can be so stupid to leave money on the table like this. But, this wish-washy, maybe we will, maybe we won’t dance will probably go on for a couple more months. Everyone who wants a Marth or a Villager will probably get one, somehow. Maybe through Club Nintendo, maybe directly through a Nintendo website, who knows. But do I know this to be true? Hell no! And that’s the problem! No one freaking knows with Nintendo anymore! They continue to drag their customers through the mud. I’m just wondering how many more times I’m going to put up with this nonsense. So, again, bravo Nintendo, you continue to push the limits of how much you can punish your fans before they just say, “enough with it, I’m out”. I guess we’ll see if you can make it right, I just don’t have that high of hopes anymore…