I am an amiibo Hunter, and I’m Mad as Hell
The image you see above is my personal Super Smash Bros. amiibo collection. So far, I'm 29 for 29. If it's a Super Smash Bros. amiibo and it was included in the first three release waves, it's sitting on the table to my right as I type these words. I'm proud of it and maybe a bit embarrassed by it, and I really enjoy naming them and using them to make me a better Smash player. My Bowser named "DENISHOPPR" is a real beast at Level 50.
I had planned to collect the entire Super Smash Bros. line before backing away and being more selective about my amiibo purchases. I had successfully avoided the NFC figure initiative until now because I'm a longtime Smash player and these are too cool to pass up. Notice I said I had planned to collect the entire Smash Bros. line. That goal is now in jeopardy, and not through any fault of my own.
Thanks to the ineptitude of the retail chains I planned to purchase these figures from, and Nintendo's incredibly frustrating opinions on how supply and demand works, a seemingly simple goal is now an impossible milestone. Tracking down these figurines used to be fun. It's not anymore.
Yesterday, as you have no doubt read, pre-orders started and quickly ended for the next wave of amiibo figures. It doesn't take a genius to surmise that new amiibo would become available the day after a major Nintendo presentation, so I had anticipated this and gone to my local GameStop store before lunchtime to get on the list. I have some store credit saved up and a gift card or two lying around, so I could get the five non-exclusive amiibo and the GameStop-exclusive Ness knocked out quickly before turning my attention to the other retailers. That was the plan.
Except GameStop decided not to start its pre-orders until 3PM Eastern time. Never before do I recall GameStop not having pre-orders available as soon as the doors open, and I work full-time, 3PM-midnight every weekday, so the odds were already stacked against me. I then find out that the standard method of pre-ordering games (the $5 down method for in-store pickup that I had to pitch every day to customers during the five years I worked there) would not be employed here. Instead these amiibo were "web-in-store" only. This means that the customer would have to pay up front for the item, and then the amiibo would be shipped directly to the person's address on day of release.
Herein lies my first issue: why in God's name would GameStop just decide to go "web-in-store only" with such a hot item set and without telling anyone? That's fine, I thought, I can work around this; if GameStop wants me to use its website so badly, I'll do that when I have a free second at my job.
Except GameStop's website (and from what I understand, the in-store systems) all crashed at about 3:02PM under the weight of the amiibo hunting faithful. To paraphrase Kevin Hart, "They weren't reaaadaaaaay." Issue number one rears its ugly head again--with normal in-store pre-orders and "web-in-store" orders, that doesn't happen. I wait for things to restore themselves, then I wait for the new wave to appear on the GameStop site. I'm still waiting as of this writing.
I then do a little bit of research, and I realize just how far up the creek I am: Best Buy had put the five non-exclusives up for pre-order and they sold out in 15 minutes. Target arbitrarily had randomly set Jigglypuff up for pre-order, and she lasted about three minutes. Toys R Us was my only hope, as its exclusive Greninja would be starting pre-orders "between 7AM-9AM EST Friday" according to the website.
Except 7AM-9AM EST Friday became 3AM Friday out of nowhere and without an announcement, and Greninja was snatched up in 15 minutes as well. Issue two: if you're a big time retailer and you're going to announce pre-order times for a highly sought after item, stick to them.
Now I sit without a single pre-order, wondering if and when my chance to get on my surfboard and ride the fourth wave will come in. Not because I planned wrong, not because I didn't have a good strategy (the same strategy, mind you, that resulted in 29 for 29 up to this point), but because every last big retailer fumbled at the goal line, leaving me, and hundreds of working people like me, who can't just hang around a store and wait for the register to let us put money down out in the dust.
All the while Nintendo sits in its ivory tower, smiling and laughing all the way to the bank as the entire allotment of pre-orders are snatched up. Nintendo got what it wanted, and its stockholders will likely be very happy, but its methods have caused nothing but anger and demoralization in the eyes of many of Nintendo's biggest fans. Nintendo is the master of driving demand for its products, as it's clearly done with these amiibos both in limited production quantities and announcing that some characters will be quickly discontinued after release. That's all well and good, but that high demand may come at a huge cost: customer loyalty and trust.
Why should I and others like me continue this quest? Why should we plan ahead for when the time is right, only to lose out because of circumstances beyond our control? What about a child who wanted to get a hold of Charizard or Pac-Man, but now he or she may not be able to because school let out just as GameStop decided to act? Furthermore, I'm sure some of the people who did get their pre-orders granted are planning to flip them for a profit instead of keeping them for their intended purposes, so we're effectively losing out to scalpers. That sucks.
I understand that this is the nature of collectibles, and I'm not looking for any kind of sympathy or anything; I just want to shed light on what has become a completely broken system for procuring something a lot of people want. It's an easy fix, too. Retailers could allow in-store and online pre-orders so people can choose how they want to do it. Nintendo could actually make enough figures for everyone who wants one instead of these limited supplies. Scalpers could go take a hike. (I know, that last one isn't happening.)
Look Nintendo, all we want to do is enjoy your awesome line of video game-capable toys, but you have to work with us here. Help us out with a little more supply, and we'll be glad to help you out with our wallets.
For now, though: