During E3 last week, Nintendo officially unveiled amiibo, the Mario maker's take on the burgeoning "toys-to-life" market. Some immediately likened Nintendo's offering to that of Activision's massive Skylanders series or Disney Infinity, but amiibo is something altogether new, according to Nintendo marketing executive Scott Moffitt.
"We want to be different. We want to create innovation and amiibo is a perfect example," Moffitt told GamesIndustry International. "We didn't just mimic what's been done before with Skylanders and Infinity, we are bringing out a whole new idea in this toys-to-life gaming segment."
One key difference between amiibo and Skylanders or Disney Infinity is that Nintendo's toy characters are compatible with multiple games from different franchises. The toy line launches this year with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but you'll be able to use the toys with Mario Kart 8, Yoshi's Wooly World, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and Mario Party 10. On top of this, third-party publishers can designed their games to work with amiibo figures, and Nintendo will release a peripheral so that the figures can be played on 3DS.
Moffitt says another benefit of amiibo is that you don't need to buy a separate "portal" for the toys to work, like you do for Skylanders or Disney Infinity. This is possible because amiibo works with the Wii U GamePad's near-field communications (NFC) technology.
"It makes ours a great value as parents don't have to buy a starter kit," Moffitt said. "So that's a great value for parents. I don't know how many of those portals people are going to want underneath their TV, if seven different gaming companies come with their own toys-to-life offering. Maybe it's better if we standardize and there's one portal and we hope the GamePad could be that. We're already the destination of choice to play those games. Maybe everyone can align on using the NFC in the GamePad."
Moffitt says the toys-to-life category, which is less than five years old, has roughly doubled in revenue every year. He said he expects this trend to continue, and believes Nintendo is poised for success given its roster of beloved franchises and characters.
"Our IP is so well-known and so beloved by game fans of all ages that I do believe the age demographic for amiibo could potentially be broader than that for the current offerings," he said.