Nintendo having to increase production estimates to keep up with Amiibo toy demand

Demand for the video game company's real-world figurines that interact with video games, called Amiibo, still far outstrips supply.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
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Demand for Nintendo's Amiibo figurines continues to outstrip supply. Nintendo

LOS ANGELES -- When it comes to Nintendo's Amiibo line of toys, demand is still far larger than the company had expected.

Nintendo has been significantly raising its internal production estimates for the figurines, which are molded to look like popular characters, such as Mario or his pal Yoshi from the action adventure game Super Mario Bros.

But what they look like is only a part of what they do. When a player touches one of them to one of the company's game controllers or its 3DS handheld, the character appears in the game's world. The toys, of which the company has shown more that 60, were first released last year.

The toys have become one of the fastest-growing segments of the video game industry, tallying more than $4 billion in sales since the first iterations, created by game maker Activision Blizzard, were released in 2011.

Nintendo announced its involvement last year, but it's not alone. Walt Disney has begun offering its own toys, called "Disney Infinity," creating figurines based on its characters like the superhero family from the Pixar movie "The Incredibles." And Warner Bros. has announced it will be fielding its own take on the genre with a game called Lego Dimensions.

Activision Blizzard meanwhile has been creating new characters each year for its game series Skylanders. This year, it partnered with Nintendo to bring Amiibo toys into Skylanders games.

Eric Hirshberg, head of the Activision division that makes Skylanders, said his teams have faced unintentional moments where demand was higher than supply. But, thanks to prior experience making accessories like plastic controllers shaped like guitars for its Guitar Hero series of games, he said Activision has been able to handle demand well.

"There is way more value in each one of these toys than toys that don't come to life," he said, adding "They're cool toys in and of themselves."

So far the market appears to still be expanding quickly.

Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime. Sarah Tew/CNET

Reggie Fils-Aime, president and chief operating officer of Nintendo's North American division, said he was shocked by how many Amiibo toys each customer is buying, though he declined to say how many. And that's beyond the surprisingly high demand.

When Nintendo launched new Amiibo toys in April, it sold more than a million toys in the US during their first 30 days on the market.

"We're at a point where we have to take our volume estimates and double them or triple them based on the levels of demand we're seeing," he said during an interview here at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video game industry's biggest trade show. "We're working very hard to meet that demand."

Fils-Aime said Nintendo has been working with its suppliers to "push the envelope" for production schedules in an effort to catch up, but "the consumer demand continues to outpace supply."

Nintendo said it plans to offer new Amiibo toys for the holidays, including one made of yarn, and another to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Super Mario Bros. game that popularized the company's products. It is also expanding the technology to collectible cards, which can also be tapped to controllers and handheld devices to bring characters into games.

"For us it's making sure we continue to innovate on the gameplay," he said. I know our content is strong. I know what we're executing is unique and compelling."

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