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Toys Bug Nintendo Technology

The Tech Problems Inside Nintendo's Amiibo Toys 70

An anonymous reader writes: Nintendo's line of amiibo figurines are coveted by fans and collectors, even scalpers and robbers, with some harder to come by models fetching high sums on auction sites. But as a new article points out, every model suffers from similar technical drawbacks when it comes to interacting with the Japanese games giant's Wii U and 3DS consoles: there is currently only one game for instance that uses the write function of each figure's NFC chip, rather than simply reading it. But if there were more, Nintendo would be faced with another problem: where to store the data for each, since amiibo can currently only store one title's data at a time. The company may be looking to solve some of these issues with its upcoming NX system, but will it be too little too late?
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The Tech Problems Inside Nintendo's Amiibo Toys

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  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @11:44AM (#50339619)

    So you're storing your data in a doll, and you have to buy a doll for each game you play? And people are still willing to pay above retail for these dolls? Sounds like Nintendo's happy with the current model to me, and somewhere PT Barnum is smiling.

    • by Colin Castro ( 2881349 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @11:57AM (#50339763)
      Found this http://www.polygon.com/2015/8/... [polygon.com]
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The Amiiqo is actually kind of neat. The app needs a bit of work but this has helped in the scenario where my kid keeps on renaming my character on the real amiibo, but I can play as "my guy" on the amiiqo.

        Other than for unlocks I don't see the point / utility in pirating amiibos. Mostly because on the amiiqo it is "work" to switch banks (you have to press a button to move to the next bank) so if you're trying to play 3 amiibos in smash you'd ahve to scan in the first one, press the button, scan in the ne

    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      So you're storing your data in a doll, and you have to buy a doll for each game you play? And people are still willing to pay above retail for these dolls? Sounds like Nintendo's happy with the current model to me, and somewhere PT Barnum is smiling.

      You do understand that Nintendo doesn't more money of rare figures, the scalpers do. In fact, Nintendo is losing money by not making more of the "rare" ones available to buyers.

      • >> Nintendo doesn't more money of rare figures

        This is the same effect as with Pokemon cards, and it's the same as baseball cards in past years. Collectors overvalue the "resale" value of their collectables, which makes them feel better about overbuying at retail prices. In other words, the rare [item] market makes additional money for [the original seller] because it increases the number of items sold (especially to the same person) - not necessarily because it increases the price of each item.

        Does

    • So you're storing your data in a doll, and you have to buy a doll for each game you play? And people are still willing to pay above retail for these dolls? Sounds like Nintendo's happy with the current model to me, and somewhere PT Barnum is smiling.

      be that as it may, a sucker born every minute etc, but I absolutely must possess the Mario amiibo from Super Mario World, or else all the atoms in my body will disassociate from their molecular bonds and fly into the ether.

    • On the flip side, there are less serious gamers like myself (*) who might consider the buying the 3DS, but would be put off by the fact that to access certain hidden features- or, more seriously, advantages- in games *that you'd already paid for*, you then had to shell out more for these figures which you have no interest in, nor space in your house for.

      If some people like that- good for them. But personally, if I'm expected to buy into this sort of thing to get full use out of a 3DS, I'm not even going t
    • by dissy ( 172727 )

      So you're storing your data in a doll, and you have to buy a doll for each game you play? And people are still willing to pay above retail for these dolls? Sounds like Nintendo's happy with the current model to me, and somewhere PT Barnum is smiling.

      It's worse than that.

      Many games now contain features or characters that you can only unlock by swiping the matching character Amibo.
      Swipe the Mario Amibo and you unlock that skin or hat or track or whatever, swap the Link Amibo instead and you unlock a Zelda themed skin or track or whatever.

      The Amibo read function is basically used as DLC. DLC the store can run out of... But anyway

      So many people collect an entire themed set of Amibos to play each of the different unlockable DLCs in a given game.

      Combined w

    • How is this any different from DLC or expansion packs?

      Except that it's a little figurine that you can display, collect, and trade.

  • One game, one save (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @11:54AM (#50339727)

    So let me get this straight.

    Only one game currently uses the write function. The chip can only HOLD data for one game. And the whole problem boils down to, "But what if someone in some indeterminate future decides to use the write function as well?"

    While yes, they should have thought of that during development, this currently seems kind of like a non-issue. And wouldn't the simplest solution be using the normal save space on the Wii U (I assume it has that, right?) requiring something similar to an encryption key or password from the given doll to use the data that applies to it?

    • One of the bonuses of saving the info on the amiibo is that you can bring it to your friend's and use it there.

      • And from a marketing stand point, needing to buy a new doll for each game that uses the features is just bonus sales...

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @12:07PM (#50339873) Journal

        So the painful obvious answer is just write some unique user id onto the doll like GUID. You could even store it in some field of the data structure used by the existing game (hopefully) so you don't break that. All other titles just use some web services to store data and the GUID as a key to identify the specific doll.

        Pretty much all of these console are connected to the Internet now so I don't see this being a problem.

      • if only there was some way of linking computers remotely, some kind of a net of cables ...
        or maybe we could plug something, something with permanent storage, some kind of memory, we could call it a memory card

      • by Zaatxe ( 939368 )

        One of the bonuses of saving the info on the amiibo is that you can bring it to your friend's and use it there.

        Have you heard about this new thing called "Internet"? It is great! It can be used to transfer data between computing equipments all around the world!
        More seriously now, XBox Live has this. I once went to a friend's house and logged my account in his console and was able to recover my on-cloud data (some games allow you to save on the cloud storage). The Amiibo doll could function as a loging key.

    • by Barny ( 103770 )

      Take them a step further. Stuff a UUID in each doll, have the console 'sign in' to their online service using the UUID and store the data there. Then it will look just like the data is stored in the doll.

      Now, I assume that each and every doll doesn't have a UUID in it. Simple, use that 'single save game' of data you can upload to put one in and link it to your account. That way, multiple dolls could link to the same account and saves.

      • by diamondmagic ( 877411 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @12:47PM (#50340207) Homepage

        This isn't always available or desirable.

        For instance in Smash Bros., you can fight against your amiibo to give it experience and it'll pick up on your play style. This data is saved back to the NFID chip and can be brought to amiibo tournaments to see whose is the best, which play styles tend to defeat which play styles, etc.

        It is quite interesting to see it all in action.

        (And good grief, you wouldn't call your D&D minis "dolls" would you? Same thing.)

        • by Barny ( 103770 )

          I don't have any (mainly play pathfind via roll20) but yes I would call them dolls, the same as my (packed up and not touched for a long time) warhammer 40k dolls :)

  • by robi5 ( 1261542 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @11:56AM (#50339749)

    > there is currently only one game for instance that uses the write function of each figure's NFC chip, rather than simply reading it.

    I guess it means:

    There's only one game that stores data in the doll, the rest just read from it.

  • TFS doesn't mention how much storage these things have. NFC is just a transport layer protocol like ethernet or wifi, and the only limit to the amount of data it can transfer is down to the relatively low transfer speed. Since memory is really cheap these days each toy could easily contain a few kilobytes of storage, enough for multiple games to save some data.

    All Nintendo needs is an API to manage it, which is hardly difficult to implement. What's the actual problem here?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They'll be using commodity NFC chips which typically come with ~144 bytes of user-writable memory and cost cents each. For 99% of NFC applications this is more than enough, and Nintendo would be idiots to try and roll their own silicone for the sake of a few extra bytes of memory.

      • Nintendo would be idiots to try and roll their own silicone for the sake of a few extra bytes of memory.

        Yeah, but I've seen loads of nerds who would happily roll their own silicone for a few bites of mammary!

    • by Yosho ( 135835 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @12:26PM (#50340035)

      The hardware in the Amiibo have 4 kB of writeable space, which is almost inconceivably tiny nowadays. You could fit enough data in there for a couple of games if you're using minimal, tightly-packed C structures, but nobody does that any more when every game console has enough space that you can use dozens or even hundred of kB for storing saved games.

      To be fair, I really don't know why they couldn't have just put a whole MB of storage space on the chip and then allocated something like 4 kB per game. Sometimes Nintendo makes baffling hardware decisions.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why do that when you can sell 256 amiibos for that 1mb of storage.

        This is like old style text messaging costs!

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        4KB is plenty. All you really need is a couple of identifiers, and maybe a tiny bit of actual data. The rest you can store in the cloud or as the seed to a PRNG etc.

        I work in the embedded world where 4k EEPROM is not uncommon. It's plenty of space, roomy in fact, for quite a lot of useful data structures.

        • by Yosho ( 135835 )

          The rest you can store in the cloud

          Which only works if you're on a system that has reliable internet access and your user is capable of setting up some sort of account credentials and is willing to go through that process any time they're playing a game on a different system. Remember who the target audience is here (young chlidren).

          It's plenty of space, roomy in fact, for quite a lot of useful data structures.

          For an embedded programmer, sure. Most of the people making console games nowadays have no experience programming for a system that doesn't effectively have as much storage space as they could want. Out in the

      • Even back on the Xbox, there were games that 'saved' by just dumping memory to a file.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @12:22PM (#50339997) Homepage
    If you're just now coming to realize the incredible inconvenience to consumers that planned obsolescence affords, and its only recently become a concern when contextualized in the form of a plastic trinket, then things are only going to get worse when you hear about how the rest of the modern consumer electronics market works.
    • And this has been the point of consoles since the 90's.

      I am willing to bet a lot more people go back and replay NES and SNES games than N64 or GameCube. Something was lost in console gaming.

    • This has nothing to do with planned obsolescence and in fact Nintendo is one of the few companies that put a lot of effort into backwards compatibility.

      This is DLC in physical form. If anything it should be praised as a step in the right direction rather than locking your purchase to some imaginary online service which may or may not exist in the future.

  • What makes you think this isn't by design? Nintendo accessories have always been expensive, even though Nintendo consoles have always been inexpensive. Even the N64 appeared to be a pretty good value, until you figured in the cost of the RDRAM expansion...

  • Nintendo's made this clear before they even released them so it shouldn't be news to anybody who cares about them. Judging from how well these things sell, and the fact that so many people buy them with no intention of even using them in a game, the public doesn't really care about this limitation.
  • Nintendo, I remember them from the 80's and early 90's. Loved playing that little dago who jumped on turtles. Didn't Sony or Microsoft buy them out around the turn of the century?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by greysondn ( 4121885 )

      List of things Nintendo has accomplished:

      - Reviving consumer faith and interest in home game consoles post-Atari Shock

      - Providing definitive games for genres that are now "commonplace" and "relatively set in stone" - Platformers (Mario), Metroid half of Metroidvania, etc

      - Always adding experimental features that often become de-facto standards: XABY controls, multi-screen interactions, casually approachable motion controls

      - Daring to experiment with gaming hardware in an effort to move things forwards (goes

  • Prediction: NX will use Amiibos instead of optical drive for games. At first it will unlock a download. In a few years all the games will come on Yoshii dolls.
    • Prediction: NX will use Amiibos instead of optical drive for games. At first it will unlock a download. In a few years all the games will come on Yoshii dolls.

      That makes no sense.

      Which is why I think you are right. Flash media costs about nothing per gigabyte, now. Soon you can put several gigabytes into everything for the cost of the plastic to make the thing.

  • Or they care just as much as Hasbro/WoTC cares about what you do with old Magic cards. Sell them, use them, keep them in a shoebox, set them on fire; they are just going to print more. Assuming nothing has changed in the last decade or so, cards from more than a few releases ago are not valid in tournaments. Planned obsolescence and whatnot.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @03:40PM (#50341829) Homepage Journal

    Seems like a pen and paper roleplaying game has the answer. the data could be a universal set of characters attributes and that progress could be translated in-game in various ways. if you level yourself on one game you might actually get some level of progress on another game. I'm a bit disappointed that this isn't how it works.

  • The Amiibo's poor storage situation is the problem? I thought the real problem was that we have to buy Amiibo's to unlock game functionality, after buying the game itself. There's something messed up with needing a few hundred dollars worth of plastic just to get the advertised gameplay.
    • by captjc ( 453680 )

      Bull. There is not game that requires them nor do they give anything that is essential to gameplay itself. All they do is unlock unessential little bonuses like costumes and freebie items.

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