Ever since Activision began raking in amazing amounts of money with Skylanders, people in the gaming community have said "Boy, if Nintendo ever decides to get into that business model with its own characters, my wallet is screwed!". Hang on to your plumber's caps, boys and girls and boys and girls at heart. Nintendo has announced that it's getting into the NFC figurine market on a wide scale (last year's Japanese Pokémon experiment doesn't count) by introducing figurines featuring its popular characters. These figurines can be used with upcoming Wii U and Nintendo 3DS games. While the Wii U GamePad was designed with this functionality in mind (it includes a NFC reader), the 3DS is going to need a hardware boost with a special reader that communicates with the system via IR. Here's some of the translated details via GoNintendo:
What is especially unique about [Nintendo Figurine Platform] is that it is not classed as an accessory product of a certain software title but as a platform itself.
And it has been designed to be compatible with multiple software titles for Nintendo platforms.
In other words, the figurines, which consumers can buy and collect, are going to work with multiple software titles to be released in the future, and we are aiming to develop more software titles compatible with the figurines.
Nintendo has a lot of well-known character IP that has originated in video games, and we have been regularly releasing titles from game franchises that make use of this character IP. This is why I believe a brand-new type of platform will be born when the character IP becomes compatible with NFP.
NFP has a writer function as well as a reader function, so it can not only tell what character figurine is on the Wii U GamePad, but also a compact amount of data unique to each game can be written into it and read from it. That is to say, you will be able to customize your NFP to raise or train your own Nintendo characters, for example.
I already collect Nintendo figurines, so as much as my wallet hates to accept it, I'm interested in this announcement. There's great potential in this, but I hope Nintendo doesn't turn to the greedy dark side by offering exclusive pre-order figurines at different retailers, blind buys, exceptionally rare figurines that boast amazing in-game content, and other things that suck the fun out of the experience. Different regions will undoubtedly get different figurines and the company will surely start with the big guns first: Mario and Pikachu. Link will follow. Samus Aran will show up eventually. Something tells me it'll be a long time before we see Ness or Captain Falcon though.
As far as what these figurines will be able to do in game, I can see many options. Imagine carrying your unique Fire Emblem hero from one game to another with his or her levels and stats intact. Consider dropping Wario into the next Super Mario game as a playable character. What if you could add a special level based on elements from Metroid to a Kirby adventure by loading up your Samus Aran figurine? The Pokémon possibilities alone are practically a license to print money. The NFP system could be absolutely huge if marketed properly, priced fairly, and if it actually improves the games with which the figurines interact. In the end, it's all about enjoyment. If NFP can't deliver that, then there's no point in producing it.