Nintendo Launches Super Smash Bros Charm Offensive

Nintendo is bringing back its most beloved characters in Super Smash Bros., and this time they have a life outside their two-dimensional video game world. The company has unveiled a collection of figurines -- Amiibos -- that have special interactive game-play abilities. For those who may have fond memories but little interest in playing the game, they make great collectibles.

Nintendo on Friday released what is expected to be its biggest title for the upcoming holiday season, and it also made a play in the collectible toy market with a line of interactive figurines.

Since the release of its Wii U console, the company has found itself in much the same position as its signature characters — an underdog fighting for survival against much bigger rivals.

Sales of the Nintendo Wii U have been underwhelming — only 7.29 million units since its November 2012 release — compared to sales in excess of 10 million for Sony’s PlayStation 4, which arrived last year.

For this holiday season, Nintendo is utilizing a dual strategy: It’s going back to what it does best, namely launching a game filled with its signature characters; and it’s entering an entirely new market in an attempt to gain creds with the next generation of gamers.

Thus Nintendo has called in Mario, Donkey Kong and Link to work together in Super Smash Bros., the first new title in the franchise in nearly seven years, while also introducing these characters in toy form as the interactive Amiibo figures.

Smash and Grab

Nintendo isn’t pulling any punches with Super Smash Bros.. The game is designed to be competitive while at the same time offering party game potential. It’s designed to appeal to hardcore fans, yet still be accessible enough to pull in newcomers.

The game features multiple stages for players to smash and bash one another. Presented in full 1080p HD at 60 frames per second, it’s the best-looking Smash Bros. title to date. It might not take the high-resolution graphics to draw the biggest fans into the action, though.

“Smash Bros. has a loyal following and they are champing at the bit for this one,” said Susan Schreiner, an analyst withC4 Trends. “There is warmth to these characters that you don’t find with most video game characters.

“That’s why gamers keep coming back to these games, and why their kids are also playing the older titles,” Schreiner told the E-Commerce Times. “Gamers also appreciate that these games can be played in short snippets as opposed to a very involved gameplay session.”

Back on Track

Super Smash Bros. could be the game that gets Nintendo back on track and back in gamers’ good graces.

“Nintendo had made a big impact in the casual game market with the Wii, but then the company deviated in ways that took them away from their roots” Schreiner recalled.

“This game could be the one that gets them back on track,” she said. “It has a lot going for it. It can be played while taking a break from doing something else, or enjoyed for hours.”

Amiibo Action

While Nintendo is returning to its roots with the Super Smash Bros. game, it’s branching out with the introduction of the Amiibo figures.

The interactive toy market has grown by 22 percent in the past year and has generated revenue of $425 million in the United States. according to NPD Group.

Disney and Activision Blizzard already have made a mark with interactive figures, and Nintendo could have an advantage in that it is bringing out its beloved signature characters.

“The Amiibos are pretty unique because they’re time-tested characters,” said video game industry consultant P.J. McNealy of Digital World Research. “Generations of gamers know who they are.”

The Amiibos also could cross genres for more widespread appeal.

“These figures have the potential to be popular with many generations,” noted Schreiner. “They can be played with or collected. This is very similar to what Disney is doing, and that has been widely successful.”

Driving Hardware

Nintendo’s strategy isn’t about getting collectors excited, however.

“The Amiibos are designed to do one thing,” McNealy told the E-Commerce Times, and that is to drive Nintendo hardware sales.

“It has always been Nintendo’s position that software drives hardware, and their value proposition has remained that the only place to play Nintendo characters is on Nintendo hardware,” he pointed out.

Amiibos and Super Smash Bros. are “critical building blocks for Nintendo,” said McNealy, as it pursues its long-term goal of building the Wii U’s base.

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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