Life Lessons From a Weary Amiibo Hunter

My name is Ryan, and I have an amiibo problem. I'm not, like, completely addicted or anything. I only buy them socially. I can stop whenever I want; I just don't feel like it. As of this publishing, I have the entire Super Mario red-based series and ten of the Super Smash Bros. gold-based series, with five more on pre-order along with the Splatoon squid kids.

Somebody save me from my own damnation.

With four waves each either out on retail shelves or well into the pre-order stages, the series of plastic toys with NFC chips in their bases known as amiibo have turned into a cash-printing machine, and shows no sign of slowing down. Now along with the figurines, there's amiibo carrying cases, amiibo display cases, and a variety of other amiibo products. Amiibo customization is still a big business, and one mistake on the manufacturer's part could lead to a big payday for lucky amiibo hunters.

But between the numbers of stock that Nintendo releases leading people to wonder if they're completely in the dark on how popular amiibo are (or the exact opposite, if they're creating the pandemonium), retailers looking to see how they can increase their slice of the pie, and the rabid – sometimes borderline obsessive – Nintendo fan base, amiibo hunting can be one of the more pain-inducing and traumatic hobbies on the planet today. (I believe I said to one friend during the last pre-order wave that my next hobby was going to be something significantly less painful, like voluntary root canals at the dental college.)

There are lessons that can be learned from the first four waves that could minimize the damage to new amiibo hunters (OH GOD DON'T DO IT SAVE YOURSELVES) or ones that are firmly in the trenches like I am. If you follow these guidelines, you may get out with your sanity, and your amiibo providing you're able to land one in those first five glorious minutes, in tact.

1. Everything is awesome rare.

When I first heard about amiibo, I had exactly three I wanted: my two mains, Peach and Zelda, and Mega Man, because I've been a huge fan for years. That's it. Just three. So when the first wave had my girl Peach along with the Mushroom Kingdom crew, Kirby, and Wii Fit Trainer, among others, I blew it off. Pish posh. How was I to know that the ones to sell out first would be the ones deemed the less popular ones? Within weeks, days even, there was not a single Marth, Villager, or the very Wii Fit Trainer I pushed aside on any shelf anywhere.

Every wave seemed to have one of those characters. The second wave saw Pit fly off shelves and Little Mac get knocked out. The third wave's wild cards, King Dedede and Ike, joined forces with the new torment, retailer exclusives. Rosalina & Luma still stand as one of the rarest amiibo to claim. By wave four, the mentality was “get one of everything,” because you don't know which one the “it” amiibo of the wave will be.

It really shouldn't have been so damn hard to get a Wario amiibo. Yet, there it was. Sold out within ten minutes on pre-order launch day. I don't even play as Wario, but I had a modicum of interest, and I knew, as any amiibo hunter will tell you, if you have even a sliver of interest in a character, get it on day one or it may be out of your grasp for a good long time.

2. Amiibo will build your schedule for you.

College students, hope you don't have coursework on an amiibo drop date. Got plans on a drop date? Better reschedule. Because everything is rare, you get about one chance to get what you're looking for, which means if drops or pre-orders start at 3:00pm, you better be online at 2:59pm ready to attack.

I have another job on top of my feature editing and reviewing responsibilities here at GameRevolution. While I won't say I've called off for an amiibo release (yet) I admit, I'd jumped in the break room on unauthorized breaks to get on my smartphone and handle what I need to get. The Toad amiibo sitting in my entertainment center is proof of that. I'm not exactly proud of it, but I got what I needed. And the only reason I knew when those dropped is because of other amiibo hunters.

3. Fellow hunters are your best friends.

A small group of us in Vegas banded together (shout out, my amiibros!) to help each other get these damn devil dolls. We scout locations, pick up for each other – not easy to do when retailers enact their one-per policy – and notify each other if there's a restock. I prefer to write late at night (past 9pm) when my creative juices flow the best; not once, but twice I've stopped articles mid-sentence because I've gotten a late-night Facebook message from a fellow amiibo hunter saying that pre-orders were back up on retailer X's website.

Ten minutes and $75 later, I'm left with my adrenaline pumping, four pre-orders in the bag, and equal parts victorious pride and sheepish shame.

4. Fellow hunters are your worst enemies.

Because I know, not only is everything rare, but the rarity is increased by unscrupulous resellers. I very specifically use that term “unscrupulous” because, in a technical sense, if you buy an amiibo (or anything, for that matter) but don't intend to keep it, I suppose that makes you a reseller in the strictest sense. Under such conditions, I'm a reseller myself, buying amiibo like Lucina because I know one of my friends wants it and didn't have the opportunity to get in on it.

No, this lesson surrounds the ones who go out and buy as many amiibo or pre-orders as possible with the blatant intent of price-gouging. Remember all those Wii Fit Trainers and Little Macs and Rosalina & Lumas I mentioned earlier? Some of those wound up in the hands of dedicated Nintendiehards standing by their proverbial man.

The rest went on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and other auction sites for double, triple, even quadruple the price. Case in point: while doing research on some of the more lucrative defects found in amiibo, I found a price guide for non-defective amiibo, so I took a look at Little Mac. Thanks to a great friend who knows my writing career from back when I was a boxing writer, I not only had my Little Mac but I have a pristine, in-box Little Mac as well. Turns out the WVBA belt-holder, at the time, went for a cool $75. For something I had paid $14 for.

There's no law against scalping, and with figures like Mac pulling in the original price plus a 435% profit, the motivation is easy to see, but it turns the amiibo into a drug for some – if you want it, you'll pay the price.

5. Plague arises on the day of an amiibo launch.

To be fair, retailers have been doing their part to work against scalping, though strictly motivated by self-preservation – retailers want to claim they did everything they could to help when amiibo pre-orders inevitably fill up. Many stores enact a one-per policy: one Charizard, one Pac-Man, two Pac-Men?? Oh no, no, we won't have that, they say, leading to denial of order or potential cancellation.

But if you've been noticing less associates in your local game store or retailer on amiibo drop dates or pre-order dates, it's because they themselves don't want to catch the plague that manifests in-store, turning normal gamers into zombie-like creatures who lust not for brains and organs but small replicas of their favorite Nintendo characters. These creatures lose all sense of sanity, ready to berate anyone who might impose risk to their shopping capabilities, be it store employee or fellow shopper alike.

I'm not saying everyone gets like this, but I am saying I'd probably call off on those days too. Wondering which ones have caught the amiibo plague? They're the ones standing right at the counter at GameStop, smartphones in hand, tweeting about how awful the service is right in front of the sales associate.

6. The true test of a retailer's website lies in the plastic hands of an amiibo figure.

Sometimes, however, people have a right to be angry. Wave four's pre-order drop date became known as “Amiibogeddon,” where the majority of people's patience with the whole amiibo lunacy (including mine) snapped.

Wave four started off on a sour note; with pre-orders on all amiibo scheduled to start at noon PST, Target decides to start pre-orders for their retailer exclusive (oh good, they came back in wave four), Jigglypuff, early in the morning on East Coast time. And, since everything is awesome and rare, within seven minutes Jigglypuff came and went.

I learned this by reading a news article on it, when I woke up at 9am on the West Coast, a good two or three hours after it happened. So for many, wave four was off to a lousy start. But people girded their loins and prepared for the big one; when GameStop opened their pre-orders up, amiibo hunters would have their first (and probably only) crack at fan-favorite Ness from Earthbound. People started swarming GameStops, as official word on start times started changing from A to B to C to M to X. Pre-orders will actually start at 11am. No, it's still noon. Actually it's 3pm. No, noon. No, noon for in-person shoppers, 3pm for online shoppers. No, noon for everybody.

And once the moment (whatever it was) finally passed… GameStop's entire system crashed. Entire. System.

Reports of wait times of up to 90 minutes just to place a pre-order were not uncommon. Tweets describing scenes with the hashtag #amiibogeddon began showing up. For those who couldn't get to an actual store, they were completely out of luck, as by the time GameStop's actual website came back up, in-store pre-orders had taken up all the expected inventory.

GameStop's official response? Essentially, “Gosh, that's awful.” No… no, I think your e-commerce performance was the awful party here.

7. Betcha can't buy just one.

And yet, semi-stupidly, I keep going after them. What originally started as Peach, Zelda, and Mega Man has turned into that collection above, and that's not even all of them. It's not just me on this one; many people also said they only planned on picking up their favorite character, yet now need to clear shelf space for all the amiibo they've bought. They're fun, why lie? Even if you're just collecting them and not planning on playing with them, it's a physical celebration of the games we love.

So keep telling yourself you're only going to pick up one. Then start working the cost of amiibo in your household budget.

Lastly, and most importantly, if there's a character out there you really want…

8. If you like it then you should've put a pre on it.

It's the only way you'll find some of them at regular cost. Good luck, and I'll see you at the pre-order starting line. I hope you get one. As long as the one you get isn't mine. Peach isn't the only person who can wield a frying pan as weaponry.