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pax 2015

Nintendo And Yacht Club Share How The Shovel Knight Amiibo Came To Exist

by Brian Shea on Aug 28, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Some big news out of PAX Prime has been the fact that a Shovel Knight Amiibo will be sold this holiday season. Though the Amiibo is licensed by Nintendo, the figure is produced and sold by Yacht Club Games, differentiating it as the inaugural third-party Amiibo in addition to being the first Amiibo for an independent game.

Nintendo wanted to make sure Shovel Knight stood out on Nintendo platforms; this is how the Amiibo functionality came into play. According to Sean Velasco of Yacht Club Games, the studio toyed around with a ton of ideas for how Amiibo functionality could be worked into the game. “We went over the entire range of possibilities of what we could do and what was going too far, what wasn’t going far enough, what does the Amiibo do, how does it work together,” he says. “It was definitely a process. I heard that Mr. Miyamoto read one of my pitch documents and said, ‘No’ and that’s like the greatest honor of my life.”

“We went back and forth a lot,” Velasco continues. “There was a lot of talk about how it was going to be, because Nintendo is so protective of their IP, but we managed to kind of navigate everything and now we’ve actually got it to come out.”

When Shovel Knight first appeared on PlayStation platforms earlier this year, it included an exclusive battle with Kratos from the God of War series. Nintendo intentionally avoided including similar features in the Wii U and 3DS versions.

“When we looked at the Amiibo functionality with Yacht Club, I think there was interest from all parties not to do a ‘me too’ type of product,” Baker says. “We wanted to do something that was unique to Nintendo platforms that only we can do. I think that the announcements that the other consoles made, and the relationship that they have with Yacht Club is great, and they offered what they could offer in terms of IP from some of their iconic franchises, but the one really thing that we could offer is Amiibo integration, and that’s something that nobody else has and nobody else will be able to emulate.”

While Shovel Knight’s inclusion in the Amiibo line has proven popular with fans, the idea of including other games’ characters in the existing line of Amiibos is not a new idea for Nintendo. According to Baker, the company has been receiving proposals since the initial announcement of Amiibos at E3 2014. 

“There’s a lot of interest and certainly the sell-through numbers of those Amiibo are very attractive to our partners as well,” he says. “I think what we’ll always evaluate is what is the end result of that and how does it create a positive gameplay experience for our fans and for our customers and consumers.”

Even if Nintendo does decide to strike more deals with third-party developers and publishers for new Amiibos, Baker says that it will do so very carefully. “We don’t want it to be exploitative. We don’t want to just throw stuff out there in order to just sell it,” he says. “I think that we’re very much looking at how does this improve or increase the gameplay experience and how does that story make sense in the grand scheme of things. So that’s what we’re going to always evaluate. It’s the reason why we collaborated with Activision with Skylanders; because it made sense for their franchise and there was a cross-promotional message with Amiibo in there in terms of the technology as well. It just made a ton of sense. We’ll continue to look at third-party opportunities with Amiibo and evaluate them on a case-by-case basis.”

For now, Velasco is just happy about what this means for the future of not only Yacht Club Games, but for independent game developers as a whole. “It’s huge for us. I feel like it just legitimizes us in the face of the world for Nintendo to kind of give us this honor of being the first third-party Amiibo. It’s incredible,” he says. “As far as what it means for other indies, who knows? I don’t know what Nintendo’s planning, but I do know that in the beginning of the Wii U when we first came on there, when we had success, we were quick to help trumpet their message that the Wii U is cool and the 3DS is awesome and small companies can make really great games and people will notice and Nintendo will notice and be really great about it. And they have.”

“Nintendo has been so good with us and helped push us,” Velasco says. “Regardless of what you think of indies or the ‘indie’ label or how I feel about being associated with that. It’s an incredible thing that they’ve done to sort of allow smaller companies to have their day in the spotlight. Back in the day, Nintendo was not nearly as forthcoming as they are now. I would say this is a really cool, incredible initiative for them.”

Though Nintendo hasn't announced any other third-party Amiibo partnerships yet, the deal with Yacht Club Games shows promise for the future. With Nintendo trying to elevate its independent partners in new ways, the eShop is becoming a more exciting marketplace for indies to publish their games.