The release dates for the next wave of amiibo were announced by Nintendo this week, and retailers have started accepting pre-orders for them. Or at least, they've tried to.
Best Buy put their stock of amiibo up with no warning early this afternoon. I had two in my shopping cart -- Lucina and Robin -- but was only able to check out with one. Lucina sold out as I was updating my payment information.
GameStop, on the other hand, gave people fair warning of when pre-orders would begin. Sounds nice of them, right? Problem is, they lied about where those pre-orders could be placed, and their systems crashed both online and in-store.
After Nintendo's announcement of the release date, GameStop tweeted that their store-exclusive Ness amiibo would be available to pre-order in-store and online (emphasis added) on April 2 at 2 p.m. central time.
According to an internal GameStop memo acquired by Destructoid, however, that second bit was a lie. It says that online orders would not be turned on at 2 p.m., and that the site would direct customers to a store locator instead.
GameStop's Twitter account never posted a follow-up to correct or clarify. They allowed followers to think that online orders would be open at 2 p.m.
So when 2 p.m. rolled around, this is what people (myself included) saw -- unless they saw a blank page.
Even when someone was able to get onto the site (which I was able to do through my phone), none of the new amiibo figures were listed on the store. The memo Destructoid posted was, it seems, accurate.
But that doesn't mean the people who went to their local GameStop stores had an easy time, either.
(Note: The "Gaf" mentioned in that last tweet refers to NeoGAF, the popular online gaming forum.)
Update 3:16 p.m.: People who lined up in stores more than an hour ago are still trying to check out, and they're not all leaving happy.
Update 4:18 p.m.: Yeah, lots of horror stories from GameStop stores.
There are two entities at which you, the would-be amiibo collector, can direct your ire right now. The first is GameStop for mishandling not only the ordering process, but also the messaging. Systems crash, that's understandable. That sort of thing can be hard to predict and prepare for. However, telling your customers that online orders would begin at a certain time -- when they actually wouldn't -- is sleazy at best. This is especially true considering GameStop's exclusive amiibo for this wave, Ness, is a fan-favorite character and will surely be sought-after by collectors.
Most of the blame, however, lies squarely with Nintendo.
The company has sold millions of amiibo worldwide to date. They experienced an outcry when three figures in the first wave of figures (Marth, Villager and Wii Fit Trainer) were almost impossible to find. They know the demand is there. But rather than make enough figures to meet that demand, evidence suggests that they are perfectly fine with keeping stock low.
Right now, amiibo are a hot item. There's a gold rush mentality around them. That's good for marketing. It's the Beanie Baby or Tickle Me Elmo effect. People hear that these toys are rare, so they camp out to get them.
But you can only do that so much before your fans turn on you. The amiibo rush wouldn't be so bad if we could count on these items being restocked. After all, Furby toys may have been hard to find before Christmas, but you could always pick them up after the holiday.
But after their first run, amiibo could be gone forever. Nintendo has announced that more Marth figures would be coming, but it sounds like the Target-exclusive Rosalina figure will never be restocked.
It turns something that should be fun -- buying toys based on your favorite Nintendo characters -- into something that's incredibly frustrating. Frankly, Nintendo's customers deserve better.