Nintendo is having its digital-only (no horrid journalists) not-E3-but-E3 Direct broadcast as I write this and it's decided to go toe-to-toe with Disney Infinity and Activision's Skylanders physical-toys-to-games strategy.
The product, which interfaces with the Wii U is called "Amiibo". Basically they are figurines that contain chips that enable them to upload data to the console via touch, and also receive data in the same way for updates and game changes. They then appear as avatars in compatible games
The first such game is Super Smash Bros later this year.Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime explained that, "There's a special chip that's embedded in every figure.
"Any Wii U system will recognise the figures by touching them on the Wii U GamePad, and when that happens, they spring to life in compatible games in cool new ways.
"When you touch amiibo to the GamePad, the character's data is downloaded into the game you're playing, and it's also a two-way street. We can send information back to the figure. So in other words, your figure's data changes as you play, which opens the door for various new gameplay possibilities.
"For example, your own figure with its own unique stats and fighting style, will not only appear, but also evolve as a fighter in Super Smash Bros. on Wii U. In fact, Super Smash Bros. on Wii U will indeed be the first game to support Amiibo. In other words, this holiday, we're not only releasing the game you've been waiting for, but also Amiibo, that literally gives you new ways to play.
"When you use an amiibo in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, that character will appear as a fighter in the game and compete in battles, developing its own unique attributes and skills. You can fight against them yourself, have them square off against other amiibo. They can even join you and fight on the same team."
In a great piece of news, yes Mario Kart 8 will also be compatible. Price is TBC.