Light at the End of the Amiibo Tunnel?
One of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning is to browse the internet on my phone while still lying in bed. On this particular morning, while scrolling down my Facebook news feed, I saw a post from five minutes ago that showed Marth in stock at Walmart. Without hesitation, I ran to my computer and purchased both him and Wii Fit Trainer. After months of scouring the internet for pro tips and refreshing online stores for figures, I scored two thirds of the original holy trinity at retail price before brushing my teeth.
Is this a sign of Amiibo supply finally meeting demand? To quote an expression I use at work all the time, “LOL! No.”
Back when the first shipment of figures sold out, Nintendo inadvertently sparked pandemonium by saying that certain Amiibo figures may never be restocked. This, combined with the already-low stock of such figures like Marth, Wii Fit Trainer and Villager, caused a huge demand for those rare figures and an aftermarket boom where those figures could be resold at a considerable markup.
From that point forward, pretty much every Amiibo release has been a nightmare. Unless you wanted to buy one of the characters in the main Super Mario universe, or knew when a store was receiving a shipment and were willing to wait in line for hours, walking into a store and just buying an Amiibo you wanted off of the shelf has been basically impossible.
In a way, shopping online has been even worse. Knowing that any release would be low on supply, high on demand and virtually no foresight into when figures would go on sale, thousands of gamers follow message boards in hopes of getting notified as soon as a batch is set for sale. That, or incessantly pressing refresh in hopes that the one Amiibo they want magically appears. I have done both more than I’d like to admit. Heck, I once stayed up till 4am as part of an announced launch of Rosalina, only for her to sell out instantly. If you want them badly enough and don’t want to pay extra from an importer or third party re-seller, the only means of being reasonably successful online is to become a slave to your computer, being ready to pounce on any offer the moment it becomes available.
Despite how slowly Nintendo has responded to this situation, the good news is that some of the previously-released figures that were in high demand are being reproduced and sent to retailers for sale. Never thought I’d see the day when I’d obtain a Marth at retail price, but it happened. This sets a really good precedent in that sold out characters can indeed come back. Whether Nintendo chooses to bring certain characters back is a different story.
The bad news is that these restocks are still woefully inadequate to meet demand. While I was able to snag Marth and Wii Fit Trainer, Villager had already sold out. To put that in context, Villager was released at 6:55 AM on a Wednesday and was sold out by 7:00 AM. Having loosely followed the recent run of restocks, these still sell out in a matter of minutes online. Don’t even think about going to a store unless you’re keenly aware of their shipping schedules and are willing to wait in line for what still might be a futile effort if the store doesn’t have enough supply to appease the people waiting in front of you. Heck, even the Wii Fit Trainer that I successfully placed an order on was cancelled by Walmart a few days later because they didn’t have enough supply to meet demand.
Kudos to Nintendo for the progress its made on trying to do right by consumers with their supply constraints. However, they’ve still got a long way to go from reaching the ideal. Is it too much to ask for a day when we as consumers can just walk into a store and buy an Amiibo we like? Without the lineups? Without refreshing your browser like crazy? Without having to subscribe to a text-message service that will update you at the exact moment when Amiibo figures are released? Almost a year later, the answer is still yes.