TECH

Nintendo's Insanely Popular Amiibo Toys Just Went Indie

Shovel Knight is getting his own amiibo figure.

Shovel Knight is about to burst into a multimillion-dollar business.

Nintendo announced via press release Friday that Shovel Knight, who stars in an eponymous title, will be the first independent video game character to get its own amiibo figure. Those are the toys that connect to video games like "Super Smash Bros. For Wii U" or "Mario Party 10" to unlock new features.

This new amiibo will sync up with the "Shovel Knight" game on Wii U and 3DS, introducing additional levels and character customization options. The Wii U version will also have a new multiplayer mode.

Nintendo's amiibo figurines are big business: They helped the company's profits triple last year, and stores can't keep them on the shelves

Given that amiibo are basically a license for Nintendo to print money so long as the character is popular enough, you might be thinking, "What's a Shovel Knight? Is it a Pikachu?"

No, friends, it is not a Pikachu. Shovel Knight is a character created by Yacht Club Games, an indie video game developer. He doesn't have the same name recognition of Nintendo's A-list characters that have gotten amiibo in the past -- think Super Mario, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong and Kirby -- which is exactly why the move is surprising. 

“Creating an amiibo that’s compatible with all current and future 'Shovel Knight' games shows that our strong relationship with independent developers is constantly evolving,” Damon Baker, a marketing manager at Nintendo, said in a statement.

And Nintendo needs that relationship to evolve. While amiibo toys have helped the company out, sales of its flagship Wii U console have struggled in part because it lacks third-party support. You can get the new "Madden" on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but it's nowhere to be found on Nintendo's system.

"Shovel Knight" is available on basically every system, but the amiibo is, of course, only for Nintendo's Wii U and portable 3DS. The features it unlocks are exclusive to those platforms. 

A spokeswoman for Nintendo would not confirm the price when reached by The Huffington Post. Previous releases have sold for $12.99, so the Shovel Knight toy will probably be somewhere around there.

Because indies can be less costly to produce and distribute than AAA video games -- but remain profitable -- Nintendo wants its systems to be as hospitable as possible for developers. Luring game-makers with the hope of an amiibo figurine could be a winning strategy.

Assuming Nintendo's able to keep the toys on shelves, anyway.

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Damon Beres covers consumer technology, video games and the many ways humans interact with their devices. He is based in New York. You can contact him at damon.beres@huffingtonpost.com or on Twitter: @dlberes.

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