Store exclusives. If you’ve been in the amiibo hunting business for a long time, all it takes is those two words to bring back painful memories. After the release of Super Smash Bros. 4’s first wave of amiibo figures, it became incredibly clear to collectors that certain fighters would be tough to get. At first, it was Villager, Marth, and Wii Fit Trainer – referred to as a “holy trinity” of sorts due to their rarity – and then it was Captain Falcon, Pit, and Little Mac from Wave 2. Though each these of trinkets was rather difficult to find, none were store exclusives — the real nightmare would begin on February 1, 2015 with the release of the gigantic Wave 3.
Wave 3 – February 1, 2015
The third wave of Super Smash Bros. series amiibo figures was the largest in history, consisting of a whopping eleven characters all released on the same day. At a recommended retail price of $12.99 each, collectors would have had to pay almost $150 for the entire lot — and that’s if they got lucky. By this point, scalpers were already using bots to purchase online pre-order listings for the sole purpose of resale, and for that reason it became very difficult to get a hold of certain amiibo figures for retail price.
Store exclusives made this much, much worse because collectors hoping to nab every figure couldn’t just visit one store and purchase each one. They had to drop by several stores, and in many cases they’d have to choose which store to stake out early in the morning before they opened. By the time they’d make their way to the other stores, collectors would often find that scalpers had already cleaned out their inventories. And considering the fact that online pre-orders often sold out in minutes at this point… that wasn’t exactly a better alternative to lining up at stores.
The eleven amiibo released on this day were as follows: Bowser, King Dedede, Ike, Mega Man, Toon Link, Sonic, Sheik, Lucario, Rosalina & Luma, Meta Knight, and Shulk. Of these, four amiibo were store exclusive: Lucario to Toys “R” Us, Rosalina & Luma to Target, Meta Knight to Best Buy, and Shulk to GameStop. Interestingly, the original Wii release of Xenoblade Chronicles was also exclusive to GameStop, so in a way, it’s rather appropriate that the Shulk amiibo was only able to be purchased there.
Let’s start with Lucario’s release, then: needless to say, it didn’t go well. To be fair, none of the store-exclusive releases went well, but that’s beside the point. By now, several collectors had visited physical Toys “R” Us locations and placed pre-orders in-store. However, some sort of internal memo seemed to suggest that the retailer would begin selling their stock of Lucario amiibo one day early. As you might expect, collectors raced over to the stores to see if they could nab their pre-orders a day early… and to varying results. Some were successful, but many of them walked away empty-handed. To add insult to injury, some collectors went back the next day (which was the official street date) only to find that the same employees who told them they couldn’t sell the figures had sold them anyway and were now unable to fulfill their pre-orders. Fortunately, Lucario was eventually restocked and lost its store exclusivity — though this was years after this point. As a result, Lucario fetched an incredibly high asking price on websites like Amazon and eBay until it was eventually restocked in 2018.
Next up is Rosalina & Luma, who may just have had the messiest release cycle. As mentioned earlier, her amiibo figure was exclusive to Target, and in January 2015 the retailer opened up online pre-orders. They sold out in under five minutes, and worse still, scalpers predicted that this character would be popular and purchased as many of them as possible — some scalpers purchased upwards of thirty units to resell to unfortunate consumers for over $70 a pop. What a nightmare. In-store wasn’t much better; as with Lucario, Target wasn’t able to fulfill all of its pre-orders and the stores were cleaned out within hours. They eventually released a statement clarifying that they would not be restocking the Rosalina amiibo at any point, and so her asking price online absolutely skyrocketed. Three years later, Rosalina & Luma was restocked and broke exclusivity, but this wave sold out quick. To this very day, her figurine is still rare and expensive, and her Super Mario series counterpart has suffered from the same fate.
This is probably starting to become repetitive. Meta Knight and Shulk – Best Buy and GameStop exclusive, respectively – also sold out fast but were restocked a few years later. It’s important to note that these amiibo figures were released during winter (at least in the United States), and lining up in front of stores in the morning was absolutely necessary to probably-maybe ensure that you’d get your figure. As you can imagine, mornings were bitter-cold in many parts of the country, so if you didn’t get your amiibo then you nearly froze for nothing!
At around this time, another store-exclusive amiibo figure surfaced, but it actually wasn’t part of the Super Smash Bros. series: it was the Super Mario series Gold Mario amiibo! Visually, it was identical to an existing Mario series Mario amiibo except for the fact that it was – as you might expect – coated in gold paint. It was exclusive to Walmart, meaning it was extra tricky to obtain because some of those stores are open 24 hours a day. That meant that you couldn’t really line up at the door in the morning to ensure you were there first — it was even more luck-based. To this day, Gold Mario remains an expensive and sought-after figurine.
Wave 4 – May 29, 2015
May 29, 2015 is a day that’s been living in my head rent-free for years. Hardcore amiibo collectors remember this day as an apocalypse of sorts — although you could argue that the entire month of April was kind of like an apocalypse in and of itself. This is because pre-orders for the fourth wave of amiibo went live on April 2, and it was undeniably the messiest release day not just for amiibo — but arguably for any Nintendo product throughout history. More on that in a moment.
Wave 4 contained a wide variety of beloved characters. If there were people out there who weren’t interested in amiibo, they were now: this wave contained Ness, Greninja, Charizard, Jigglypuff, Lucina, Wario, Robin, and Pac-Man. Of these, there were three exclusives: Greninja to Toys “R” Us, Ness to GameStop, and Jigglypuff to Target. Those three are absolutely beloved characters, so collectors around the globe feared the worst. And boy, were they right to do that.
The online pre-orders of the actual figures went about how you’d expect: they sold out instantly, and a ton of them were canceled afterward. Looking on eBay, prices for these exploded and were more expensive than ever. There was one key difference this time, though: Ness. GameStop took a different approach here and actually didn’t open any online pre-orders. Instead, they forced customers to place “web-in-store” pre-orders, in which they’d have to order at the counter and have the amiibo shipped to their home. This went terribly. The demand was so great that GameStop’s entire internal system crashed, and now all of these customers stuck in-store had to wait to make any purchases at all — not just those including amiibo pre-orders. It took hours and GameStop (rightfully) faced tons of backlash.
This wave was a mess. You’d think that after this atrocity, Nintendo would think twice about commissioning retailers for exclusive amiibo — but that wasn’t the case. Luckily, Wave 4 was the worst this ever got: though store-exclusives continued until the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, they became better-stocked, and – generally speaking – collectors were able to get what they want without as much trouble. From here on, we’re going to fast-track a bit, because to be honest there aren’t many more ridiculous situations like the ones we’ve already covered. Let’s continue, then!
More Exclusives – July 2015 to July 2017
As we mentioned before, by the time July 2015 rolled around the absolute worst of amiibo scalping was (mostly) over and done with. The next wave of amiibo figures was a comparatively small one: it only included Dark Pit and Palutena, and both were store-exclusive. Dark Pit was exclusive to Best Buy, but Palutena was exclusive to Amazon for the first time ever. This meant that Palutena wouldn’t be available in-stores at all, which had never happened before! Thankfully, Amazon’s Palutena pre-orders weren’t anywhere near as bad as past amiibo orders were, and for the most part they came and went without incident.
The next wave of amiibo figures included Duck Hunt, Mr. Game & Watch, and R.O.B. – in North America, these guys were sold exclusively via a three-pack you could only find at GameStop – plus Bowser Jr. (Toys “R” Us) and Dr. Mario (Target). Olimar, Zero Suit Samus, and Ganondorf were also released in this wave, though none of them were exclusive to any particular retailer. Though there were a few stock issues regarding the store exclusives, they were far and few between, and most collectors were able to nab everything they wanted. It helped that the retro three-pack received a ton of units plus the fact that Bowser Jr. received several large restocks.
From this point onward, there was only one store-exclusive-related mishap. Let’s quickly go over each of the additional exclusives that were made available without significant issue: Falco to Best Buy, the Mii Fighters to Toys “R” Us (which received a massive number of units), Roy to GameStop, Bayonetta Player 2 to Best Buy, Cloud Player 2 to GameStop, and Corrin Player 2 to Amazon. The problem here involved Corrin’s Player 2 figure — if you’re a hardcore collector these days, then you’re fully aware that she is the rarest Smash series amiibo. Her price tag is a consistent $200: if you find a listing that goes for any less, you’re considered lucky. Part of the reason for that price tag is that Corrin was never made available in physical stores since she was exclusive to Amazon! That means it’s entirely possible that the number of units manufactured was lower, though it’s impossible to say for sure. It didn’t help that Amazon sent some unfortunate customers Corrin’s Player 1 figure instead and was then unable to fulfill their order for Player 2 due to selling out. This figurine was never fully restocked outside of Japan, and at this point it likely never will be.
New amiibo figures have since been released for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and not a single one has been exclusive to any particular retailer. Though certain characters are still tough to get, the reason behind their rarity isn’t because they were only made available at a certain store. At this point, it really does feel like store-exclusive amiibo are a thing of the past, and I’m sure nobody’s complaining about that fact! Store exclusives were ultimately harmful to the amiibo community; the artificial rarity imposed on fighters like Rosalina, Meta Knight, and Lucario affected the number of trainers who could work with them, and so their tournament representation was lower as a result. Now that newly-manufactured amiibo characters can be purchased anywhere, trainers don’t have as much of a fear of missing out and thus have more opportunities to get their hands on the characters they want.
That being said, it’s entirely possible that store-exclusive amiibo figures pop up here and there in the future — it’s just looking somewhat unlikely at the time of writing. Regardless, Nintendo has learned their lesson by now: if an amiibo going to be store-exclusive, it had better have a ton of stock to compensate for that fact.
If you would like to read more informational posts, please follow this link.