Nintendo and Yacht Club Games unveil the Shovel Knight Amiibo figurine in Seattle on Thursday night.Nintendo and Yacht Club Games unveil the Shovel Knight Amiibo figurine in Seattle on Thursday night. Nintendo

Nintendo’s Amiibo interactive figurines are still hot commodities, and now it’s letting other game developers get in on the action. At an event in Seattle last night, Yacht Club Games, the developer of the throwback indie hit Shovel Knight, unveiled an Amiibo of its game’s protagonist.

Certain other characters from outside Nintendo, like Pac-Man, have already joined the lineup of figures. But what makes Shovel Knight different, as Nintendo confirmed that night, is that Yacht Club is manufacturing and distributing the Shovel Knight Amiibo, and Nintendo has simply granted the developer a license to put the Nintendo brand and the Amiibo name on the figure.

“We were like, what’s one thing that Nintendo could do that nobody [else] could ever do?” a Nintendo licensing manager said to GameXplain that night.

Indeed. The fact that a Shovel Knight Amiibo is on the way is less interesting than the news that Nintendo will license out the Amiibo name, and has correctly identified this as, at least for now, something that Nintendo can offer on its game platforms but its competitors cannot.

So how far does it go with this?

Nintendo’s not just trying to court indie sensations like Yacht Club; it’s also losing the big name third party publishers as well. Earlier this year, Ubisoft said it had a Wii U game that was all finished but that it would not release into the current ecosystem. The toys-to-life genre encompassing Skylanders, Disney Infinity, Amiibo, and soon Lego Dimensions, has been lucrative. What if Nintendo told Ubisoft it could get into that market on Wii U without having to build all its own tech?

Even if Sony and Microsoft did want to build in near-field communication support, and thus enable developers to create PlayStation- or Xbox-specific toys, they’re very far away from releasing the PlayStation 5 or the Xbox, uh, Two. So it is, in the console realm, a differentiating feature for Nintendo, and should be for a while.

Right now I see two possible outcomes:

  1. Amiibos are a fad and the bubble is about to pop spectacularly, or
  2. Owning small physical objects that add content to your games is a concept with some staying power that is appealing beyond the collect-em-all urge.

If the latter is true, Nintendo could use this as an angle to entice developers back into the fold and give them more of a reason to publish on Nintendo platforms. If the situation is more like the former, though, a potential opening of the floodgates to allow publishers and developers entrée into the Amiibo marketplace might only hasten its demise.

For now, I gotta buy that Shovel Knight! When do preorders open? Money’s burning a hole in my pocket here.

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Nintendo Is Letting Developers Make Their Own Amiibo. Can This End Well?