According to a post on the NeoGAF forums, Nintendo has announced a new update to the venerable Animal Crossing: New Leaf for 3DS. Due this fall, the New Leaf update will add amiibo and amiibo card support to the game.
Back when Nintendo announced a huge onslaught of Animal Crossing-themed amiibo, my first thought was that they might take a page from other current series such as Mario Kart and Smash Bros. to retroactively add amiibo support to the most recent mainline Animal Crossing entry. However, I spoke to Animal Crossing series lead Aya Kyogoku about it last year at E3 and was told, simply, that an update for the older game was not in the cards:
USgamer: Nintendo has increasingly been using its most popular games like Smash Brothers and Mario Kart 8 as platforms unto themselves - they continue to grow and evolve. Obviously, Animal Crossing is one of your biggest franchises; has there been thought of revisiting New Leaf and finding new ways to expand that game? Or is that mindset – that games-as-platforms approach – is that something that you would like to explore in future Animal Crossing games?
Kyogoku: Currently, there are no plans to develop that.
Clearly, plans have changed — perhaps out of necessity. The Animal Crossing amiibo originally supported last year's franchise spin-offs, house-decorating sim Happy Home Designer and low-friction board game amiibo Festival, neither of which resulted in the breakout casual gamer success Nintendo clearly had designs on. Meanwhile, most Animal Crossing amiibo have landed on clearance racks (I recently completed my set by picking up four figures for the original MSRP of a single amiibo), and fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the cards when they appeared by the hundreds in rapid succession. Nintendo presented no compelling use for the figures or cards, and they've fared poorly as a result.
It may be too late to rescue poor Kicks and Tom Nook from the bargain bin, but the New Leaf update will at least give loyal fans something to do with their disused figures (which don't even have any real value in more recent amiibo-capable games like Kirby: Planet Robobot). Nintendo also hopes to buil some fresh Splatoon cross-promotional appeal into the New Leaf plan by seemingly including a role for their new Callie and Marie figurines: Splatoon amiibo will be able to unlock a variety of neon-themed items, including costume elements.
The timing could work out. New Leaf is one of those games that I've seen people return to check on years later; I'd have visited my old village from time to time myself if all my data hadn't been destroyed by the clumsy New 3DS migration process. Rumor suggest that the launches of the NX console and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being pushed to 2017 have left Nintendo without a strong fall 2016 lineup, so refreshing a beloved hit from several years ago could actually give the company a mild but valuable shot in the arm this holiday. It's the kind of stunt that only Nintendo (with its habit of keeping popular games in circulation with few discounts for years) could pull off. At the very least, lapsed players like me will probably wander back into the game to see what's new.