The arrival of Animal Crossing: New Horizons has predictably triggered a surge in demand for Animal Crossing amiibo cards required to invite certain villagers to your island, so much so that some of them are now trading hands for significantly more than the value of the game itself. When you consider that these cards were supposed to offer a low-cost means of accessing amiibo-locked content, it's a rather bizarre turn of events.
While a re-run of the Animal Crossing cards appears to be taking place in Japan later this year – according to online retailer Play-Asia, at least – the idea of paying hundreds of dollars to get the Animal Crossing villager you truly desire is something that only the most dedicated fan will resort to. For me, I'm happy with a tiny plastic disc I was fortunate enough to pick during the Halcyon days of the 3DS.
Back in 2015, we ran a piece arguing the case both for and against the amiiqo (now known as the N2 Elite), a small device which could be loaded up with the NFC data from amiibo figures. The premise behind the unit is simple; using either a computer (with the bundled NFC writer) or an Android phone with NFC support, you can copy over the NFC data from any amiibo. A little button on the side of the device allows you to cycle through all of the amiibo data it currently holds. Once the data is on the N2 Elite, it acts like a 'real' amiibo – and it's possible to download amiibo data online for every figure and card released so far.
I'm not going to trawl through the debate again – as I said, we did that back in 2015 – but given the current madness surrounding the Animal Crossing amiibo cards, I'm thanking my lucky stars that I still have my old N2 Elite at the back of my desk drawer. Prior to the release of New Horizons, it hadn't been used in literally years, but it's now enjoying a new lease of life – and saving me a small fortune in the process.
Surely this is little better than piracy, you might say. However, at the end of the day, Nintendo doesn't benefit when someone pays an extortionate amount on eBay for a second-hand Animal Crossing amiibo card, so there's little reason to feel any kind of guilt in this particular situation – especially as I know in my heart of hearts that if the cards were available at their original price in my local games store, I'd snap them up as I'd much prefer to have a physical item – and that was a key line of debate back in 2015. The appeal of amiibo figures is arguably rooted in their status as lovely collectable items you can display on your shelf; the NFC functionality is, for most people, a bonus. Besides, irrespective of that, the key point here is that I can't buy them for their original price even if I wanted to.
The collectability of amiibo has been a key sticking point since the range began, with many figures now selling for several times more than their original retail value. The existence of such a market was bound to create the need for devices like the N2 Elite, and I'm personally thankful that I have the option to add whichever villager to my Animal Crossing island without having to pay through the nose. While the game lacks DLC content at the moment, the fact that Animal Crossing cards exist is almost like having physical DLC, and what's worse, players can't readily get hold of them without paying insane amounts of cash.
Should Nintendo have gotten more cards into production ahead of New Horizons hitting store shelves? Most definitely; the demand is clearly here. However, the recent coronavirus outbreak may have put the brakes on that particular plan. Should amiibo villagers be offered as in-game DLC? Maybe you could drop 99 cents to get your favourite character to visit your island? It sounds exploitative, but then isn't that what Nintendo is asking when it decrees that amiibo cards are required to summon these characters?
Let us know if you've got an N2 Elite you're using in the same way – and what you think about the current Animal Crossing amiibo card situation – by voting in the polls below and leaving a comment.
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