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Nintendo Details Amiibo, Its Answer to Skylanders and Disney Infinity

Mario and friends join the smart-toy club.

In a digital event timed to the official opening of E3 today, Nintendo laid out more details about its line of interactive toys that will pair physical figurines with its videogames.

For starters, the toy line now has a name: Amiibo. It will debut in time for the holiday shopping season alongside the Wii U version of Nintendo’s fighting game Super Smash Bros, but won’t be compatible with the handheld 3DS system straightaway.

In addition to looking like Nintendo characters, like Mario, Link and Samus, the Amiibo figures also store data in their bases. A near-field communication scanner in the Wii U’s tablet-like controller, the GamePad, will be able to read and write data off of the toys.

Nintendo says this will make the toys more collectible, because each one will be different. A peripheral for the 3DS that can similarly read/write to the toys is now planned for release sometime next year.

Rather than unlocking new characters in the game a la Disney Infinity, the toys will act as a sort of advanced power-up in Super Smash Bros., standing in for characters that their owners train, level up and customize over time. In Super Smash Bros., placing an Amiibo on the GamePad will deploy that character into the game to fight with or against the player.

However, the company said not all games will use Amiibo in the same way. Other titles, like the recently released Mario Kart 8 and the upcoming Mario Party 10 and Yoshi’s Wooly World, will integrate the toys somehow — but the company is keeping mum on the details, other than to say that it will be at the discretion of those games’ individual developers.

The bigger picture on all this: If Nintendo can market and sell its characters as effectively as Activision and Disney have sold theirs, the GamePad will have a new, clearer purpose as part of the Wii U. At E3, Nintendo plans to discuss other GamePad-integrating projects including a new online multiplayer game called Splatoon and a project called Mario Maker that will let players create their own platformer levels in the style of the two-dimensional Super Mario games.

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