I’m optimistic about many things in gaming, but I’m a confirmed Amiibo skeptic. I fear the day a Zelda dungeon or Smash Bros. character is locked out for those who didn’t purchase the right $13 Amiibo figure. Well, at least I don’t need to fret about the new Star Fox’s use of Amiibos.
“In terms of what I’m doing with Star Fox, I’m really not thinking about there being locked content or there being a mode that you won’t be able to play if you don’t have one,” Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s top game designer, told me last week at E3.
I’d just been telling him about my Amiibo concerns, concerns I’d expressed in an article last May. I see Nintendo selling millions of Amiibo and then tying Amiibo to various content unlocks in games—special challenge map variations in Splatoon, or a cool weapon in Hyrule Warriors, for example—and I wonder just how far Nintendo will go in terms of treating Amiibo as $13 keys for unlocking content on a disc. Physical DLC, as it were.
What I knew before talking through this with Miyamoto is that this fall’s Star Fox Zero for the Wii U will connect at least with the existing Fox McCloud Amiibo and the forthcoming Falco one. It’s logical, in that both characters who are featured in Smash Bros. and are therefore destined to have Amiibo to fill out the Smash Amiibo line-up are major characters in Star Fox.
That led to this exchange, with Miyamoto’s answers provided via a translator:
Totilo: “Mr. Miyamoto... I’m not the biggest fan of the Amiibos. I know a lot of people like them. But I really like the way you guys design games. Ever since you started releasing the Amiibos and connecting some bonus content to them, I began to wonder if that was going to contort the values you have when you design games, that you were going to lock stuff off. Unless I paid extra for an Amiibo I wouldn’t get it. I’m wondering if on Star Fox or anything else you have any guiding principles that affect what you would allow to have locked off by an Amiibo and what you wouldn’t.”
Miyamoto: “In terms of being able to unlock content, I don’t really want to go down that path. For this game, I think of it more as, for people who have the Amiibo, they’re going to get a little something extra and that’s how I’m planning on it with this game. So rather than actual abilities or things like that changing in the game, it would be like getting a different skin for the Arwing or something like that.”
Totilo: “The reason I ask is because I see a game like Splatoon, which I’ve been enjoying, I notice that if I use the Amiibo I get challenges that I wouldn’t otherwise get. I think, ‘Well, if I just had the game, and I didn’t have the Amiibo, I feel like I would be missing out on things.’ And I noticed in the Yoshi game, Woolly World, if I have an Amiibo I get an extra mode or ability that I otherwise wouldn’t get. I think, ‘Oh, Nintendo wants me to buy these Amiibos, so are they going to put really enticing things in these Amiibos that I can’t get.’ How do you draw the line to make sure it is not tempting you to lock really cool stuff off?”
Miyamoto: “So, I don’t really want to talk about Nintendo in general today, but in terms of what I’m doing with Star Fox, I’m really not thinking about there being locked content or there being a mode that you won’t be able to play if you don’t have one. Since we already have the existing Smash Bros. Amiibos I basically want to put in something so if you already have those Amiibos, I imagine people will try and tap them on Star Fox anyway, and I want to make sure there is something that gives them a nice charge when they do that.”
What do you all think? I know Miyamoto was just talking about Amiibo implementation in Star Fox Zero, but I think if that approach was Nintendo’s approach across the board for games that aren’t entirely based on Amiibo (like the new Animal Crossing spin-offs), I would’t cry foul. You?