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Fils-Aime: Nintendo loves its amiibo, but video games will always come first

Nintendo's amiibo, tiny game character statues that can interact with games, are a massive hit. But that doesn't mean that the video game developer — at one time a toy company — will let that success distract it from making video games, said Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime.

Since the June 2014 release of the first amiibo, Nintendo either released or plans to release about 75 different amiibo toys. As of March, the company sold more than 10.5 million of the toys, two-thirds of those sales in the Americas.

But when we spoke with Fils-Aime at E3 he was clear to point out that the creation of these game-inspired toys don't in anyway distract from the company's main business of developing video games and the consoles they play on.

"You are talking about very different parts of our organization," Fils-Aime said. "Amiibo is really a supply chain challenge and process right now: Getting the core design, building the mold, managing the production. Our amiibo are hand-painted. So it's a very intricate supply chain.

"The people involved in doing that are not the same people involved in creating the games and creating the implementation."

As proof, Fils-Aime pointed out that Nintendo is launching more games over the next six to nine months than they did all of last year.

"There's no issue with our first- and second-party development," he said. "In fact, I don't know if you've been to Kyoto recently, but we've got a whole new R&D building that is full of developers; whether they are software developers or hardware developers.

"So, we're increasing our capacity to create more content. We're focused on creating great content."

Of course, Nintendo isn't ignoring the rampant success of the figures either.

Fils-Aime said the company was always bullish on the toys.

"The toys-to-life category is most developed here in the United States," he said. "Early on, we challenged our internal supply chain that this was going to be big and we needed to scale it up. The fact that we had supply challenges probably says we didn't think big enough. But certainly the demand has been exceedingly strong."

With the coming of new form-factors for the toy — including a yarn Yoshi amiibo and the amiibo cards for Animal Crossing — that is likely only going to increase, he said.

"We think this category and Nintendo's execution in the category can be significant. We are going to come out with a regular pacing of waves."

Waves of amiibo, the clustering of those toys around specific release dates, only happen in the Americas, Fils-Aime pointed out. It's on this continent that the sheer number of stores forces Nintendo to group the figures in batches when they ship them out.

"We are going to continue to launch these, there are many more figures to support," he said. "We are going to continue to innovate with different form factors and our developers are going to continue to find unique ways to leverage the amiibo.

"Our developers are having fun in finding ways to leverage the amiibo functionality across all of our different games."

Because Nintendo's amiibo use NFC to communicate with the Wii U and New 3DS (you can also purchase a reader for the original 3DS), Fils-Aime says that the company's toys can innovate very quickly with software as a way to leverage the functionality.

"You're going to continue to see a range of executions and range of different functionality."

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