LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nintendo is taking a cue from "Skylanders" and "Disney Infinity."
The Japanese gaming giant unveiled a toy figure line called "amiibo" that will work in tandem with its video games like the toys-meet-games franchises from Activision Blizzard Inc. and the Walt Disney Co. The announcement was made in an online video released Tuesday during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the industry's annual trade show.
"We see 'amiibo' as a brand-new platform for us," Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, said on the E3 show floor Tuesday morning. "We use the term 'platform' specifically. Today, it's figures. In the future, it could be other things that tie into the near-field communication technology built right into the GamePad."
Similar to Activision's "Skylanders" and "Disney Infinity," the characters' virtual histories will be stored on the plastic figures and transmitted through the Wii U GamePad, the controller for its slow-selling Wii U console that features a touchscreen and NFC capabilities.
"There's a special chip that's embedded in every figure," said Fils-Aime. "Any Wii U system will recognize the figure by touching them on the Wii U GamePad, and when that happens, they spring to life in compatible games in cool new ways."
The "amiibo" figures, the first of which are due out later this year, will include characters from well-known Nintendo franchises, such as the Villager from "Animal Crossing"; the "Wii Fit" trainer; sword-wielding Link from "The Legend of Zelda"; intergalactic solider Samus Aran from "Metroid"; Pikachu from "Pokemon"; iconic gorilla Donkey Kong; pink shape-shifter Kirby; and Mario, Princess Peach and Yoshi from "Super Mario Bros."
The company said the figures would be compatible with the upcoming Wii U fighting game "Super Smash Bros." and would eventually work with other games, including the recently released racing title "Mario Kart 8" and the forthcoming platformers "Yoshi's Woolly World" and "Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker."
Bill Trinen, product marketing director at Nintendo of America, said the company was working on a peripheral reader scheduled for release next year that would connect the figures to its hand-held Nintendo 3DS system. He said other "amiibo" figures and games are "in the works." The price of the figures and details on which characters would initially be available wasn't announced.