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Amiibos can unlock free, classic Nintendo games in an upcoming Wii U app

Nintendo’s Amiibos will soon have the ability to unlock portions of classic NES and SNES games for free in a Wii U app that is expected to arrive in the first half of 2015. The plan was revealed during the company’s latest earnings report. Nintendo also intends to release Amiibos in card form, as an attempt to sidestep the lack of availability on select figurines.

While it’s not directly called out as such, the Wii U app sounds an awful lot like a specialized interface for delivering Virtual Console demos to fans. Tapping select Amiibos on the GamePad’s near-field communication (NFC) area allows players to access “highlighted scenes” of NES or SNES titles. The way the report is worded, it sounds like there’s one game associated with a given Amiibo, and multiple “scenes” accessible for each game. A time limit prevents players from running through the entire game, but there’s no limit on the number of time each scene can be accessed.

The report also addresses the increasing rarity of various Amiibo figurines. Nintendo released two charts in the report: One listing, by region, the highest-sales Amiibos among players (“sell-through”) and the other listing (also by region) the biggest retailer buys (“sold-in”). It’s telling that the top three figurines among gamers in the U.S. and Canada — Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer — are completely absent from the sold-in chart.

Nintendo’s strategy for addressing the rarity of certain Amiibos involves the release of NFC-capable cards that provide the same functions as the figurines. Amiibos work with NFC technology installed in the Wii U GamePad and recently released New Nintendo 3DS to open up access to special content in select games. The cards are cheaper to produce (and hopefully cheaper to buy than the $13 Amiibos), and they’re expected to ship in 2015.

The report also promises to re-release select figurines when they’re essential to one game or another. “It is difficult for us to promise to continuously ship all of the amiibo figures,” it reads. “We will, however, consider additional production in cases such as when an amiibo figure sells out shortly after launch, an amiibo is indispensable to play a certain game, and when we receive a lot of requests for an amiibo figure from consumers and retailers.”