‘it’s Uniting People’: Why 11 Million Are Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendos record-breaking new game has been embraced by a world in isolation. Its creators talk about how it was made for sharing
Animal Crossing has been a thing for almost 20 years, but this year it has exploded. You cannot scroll through any social media feed without seeing one of its benign, big-headed characters in a screenshot or video showing off someones beautifully tended desert island. Celebrities including Elijah Wood have been delighting fans by turning up to visit their towns. People whove rarely played games before have been picking it up as a lockdown distraction including Lauren Laverne, who enthused about it on her Radio 6 Music show. US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez picked it up a few days ago and has been .
Since the latest game, New Horizons, came out on 20 March, it has become a cliche to say that this is the game we all need right now. But if the numbers are anything to go by its been setting new records, selling 11m copies by the end of March then its absolutely true.
guys I tweeted my turnip prices and elijah wood just came to my island and hung out this is the best day in quarantine yet
In Kyoto, Japan, the games creators at Nintendo are finding the immense virality of Animal Crossing: New Horizons validating, because this is a game designed to be shared.
The People Who Spent The Year In Animal Crossing
Snow topped trees, ice sculptures and the sound of rushing waterfalls. Susana Liang built out her Animal Crossing island complete with a Christmas dinner, various shops, a wedding reception, an igloo campsite, a picnic, a mini version of the Greek island Santorini, elaborate walkways and a cozy home with plenty of Christmas trees.
Winter makes everything covered in snow and its all white, so it makes it feel a bit more ethereal and dreamy. Its one of my favorite seasons in the game, said Liang, who works in health science in New York and has spent over 2,300 hours playing Nintendos Animal Crossing: New Horizons since a few weeks after the games release. Its always winter on her island. Every time winter is about to end, she time travels back to the beginning of January to stay in the season.
The game debuted on March 20, 2020 and has sold over 31 million units, coming in second place behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as the best-selling title on the Nintendo Switch. The global pandemic has also endured for a year, and Liang is one of many players who have spent the equivalent of a month or more playing the game and transforming their islands from grass-covered and rural to unique vacations away from real-world problems.
Smith is one of the admins who run the Facebook group Animal Crossing Free Community, with over 11,000 members. The group is dedicated to sharing free items with each other and fostering a sense of community among fans of the game.
The User Interface Is Slow Clunky And Infuriatingly Designed
The user interface requires as many button presses as possible to accomplish the desired action, and you are forced to navigate it to perform basically every action required of you.
Why is “put in storage” the second option on the list when I am operating the inventory inside my house, clearly trying to put things in storage? Why is it so hard to equip my net when I am being chased by a swarm of wasps? And why, for the love of Anthropomorphic Animal God, can I not eat the pizza in the pizza oven?
These are minor things, you might say. Fine. Let’s get to more important things. Prior to this game, my exposure to “Animal Crossing” was largely through osmosis, with Tumblr-era posts reminiscing about cute interactions with the lively denizens of their villages.
So imagine my surprise when I was placed on a deserted island with only two fellow residents, not counting our Tanuki landlord and his sycophantic offspring. My companions were an obnoxious purple rhinoceros with a tic for saying “yo” multiple times in a row and a gym-bro tiger who was admittedly pretty dope.
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Soapbox: Why Do People Love Games Like Stardew Valley And Animal Crossing
One of my favourite things to do after a long day of nine-to-five work is crack open a beer, get cosy on the sofa, and play two to five hours of a game where I have a nine-to-five job. It seems ludicrous to spend my free time doing exactly what I do in my non-free time, and yet, here I am – one of millions of people doing tasks for fun and zero profit. In fact, I paid for the privilege to pretend that I have to restore and maintain a struggling farm/tourism spot/tiny café.
What gives? Why are games like Harvest Moon,Story of Seasons, Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing so dang popular? Are we just so entrenched in capitalism that we can’t even fathom escaping it, and playing a game in an economy-free world?
Well, maybe. But there are lots of reasons – psychological, emotional, and even chemical – that so many of us find comfort in the mundane and reassuring worlds of these games, where progress is slow, but satisfying. You only have to look at the number of people playing Valheim – five million, as of last week – to see that people really, really love the farm-fish-forage-fight game loop that these games offer, and even more so when it can be played with friends.
Sure, it wasn’t easy to be a peasant – especially if I were a female peasant with poor mental health – but by taking aspects of that simpler, pastoral life, we can attempt to create a safe haven for ourselves where the stressors of modern life don’t exist.
Doraemon Story Of Seasons
Since Marvelous split from Natsume weve been waiting to see what the studio would do next. The answer is a mashup between adored Japanese manga Doraemon and Story of Seasons, which is a farming simulation series thats been going since the new millennium.
The draw for Animal Crossing fans extends beyond the obvious farming activities, as you can also help improve the town, take part in activities with its denizens, fish and collect insects, and spend hours agonising over your home decorations.
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Animal Crossing: New Horizons What I Like
Animal Crossing: New Horizons delivers on almost every front. It’s a simple, easy-to-play life simulator that lets players do whatever they want with their deserted island package. Tom Nook is back with his next money-making scheme, but this time, he’s starting from scratch, and he’s bringing you and two other villagers along for the ride.
Players land on their island armed with nothing but a tent to sleep in and a Nook Phone provided by the raccoon in charge. From there, the world is your oyster. There’s no set storyline or plot to follow, but to get certain items, you are going to have to spruce up the island and hit some goals. As you rough it, players get the ability to build their own tools and other items, name their town, and choose where the residents move. As a Residential Representative, this is your town to mold. So you can make it as developed or undeveloped as you like.
Is Anything Else Coming Alongside Brewster
It seems likely! Given how long Nintendo has gone without a substantial New Horizons update, players are eager for something more to sink their teeth into. During the Nintendo Direct on Thursday, Nintendo hinted that theres more to the update than just Brewster alongside the image of Brewster, theres some text that reads and more!
As for what that and more! is referring to is anyones guess, but well learn more at the Animal Crossing Direct in October. Well keep you updated on an exact date for that event.
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There Are Plenty Of Reasons To Be Afraid Of Kapp’n
It’s no secret that travel is a big part of Animal Crossing, and, as luck would have it, there exists a character whose main purpose is to shuttle you to and fro. Whether it’s by boat or by taxi, you can count on Kapp’n to get you where you need to go. Unfortunately, you can also count on Kapp’n to be extra creepy while he’s doing it especially if your character is a woman.
If you make the mistake of taking a ride with Kapp’n, you can expect inappropriate questions like, “So … are ye romantically involved with anyone?” and “Yar I’m just curious, could a lass like yerself fall for a turtle like me?” These inquiries come flying your way even though Kapp’n is and has a kid. Holy smokes.
And it gets worse, because Kapp’n isn’t a turtle at all, despite saying he is. As some Reddit users discovered, Kapp’n is actually based on a Japanese monster called the Kappa. That’s right, kids “kappa” isn’t just a meme used by people in Twitch chats it’s a creature from Japanese folklore that abducts and eats children. Think about that the next time Kapp’n offers you a ride.
Plays When Youre Away
One thing that I find particularly awesome is that the world and the characters in your game are living, even when youre away. Time never stops, seasons will pass, and animals will come and go, all in your absence. Your town will begin to show that it hasnt been kept up over time. Its a brilliant idea from Nintendo that always entices players to come back. Not only that but the latest iteration in the series, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, is constantly being updated with new merchandise and goodies to find. This mechanic is what ultimately deviates the Animal Crossing series from other life sim games. Well, that, and the fact youre living with talking animals in clothes!
Why Is It So Popular
Thanks to COVID-19, everyone has been sitting at home social distancing. What better way to keep your social life up than to place yourself in an alternate reality with an array of friends from around the world!?
The fifth and latest instalment of the game New Horizons was released in March, and is the first release since New Leaf back in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS console. This could be another reason for the games popularity. Animal Crossing fans have been waiting almost a decade to get back into their virtual worlds.
I think its especially popular now because its an escape, says Aharon.
Unlike a lot of other games, this one doesnt punish you heavily for not playing it 24/7 and encourages you to do things in your own time.
According to The Guardian, Animal Crossing has proved to be the best-selling game of the COVID pandemic, estimating over 3 million sales in the first 3 weeks.
Another Animal Crossing player Sarah Curran explains that she grew up playing the game on her Nintendo DS. As someone who isnt great at intense and fast games, she enjoys the fun nature of this one.
It has a lot of things to do in it its one of those things that Im not sure why I love it, I just do!
Talented Sydney-based photographer and crafting queen Georgia Moloney even took to her Instagram to share an Animal Crossing embroidery a tribute to our capitalist emperor tom nook.
A post shared by georgia moloney on Apr 8, 2020 at 5:59pm PDT
‘i Get Up Early To Do Tasks’
“I struggle with anxiety and depression and I think the current state of the state of the world where there’s bad news 24/7, there’s not really a way to escape everything that’s going on,” Akemi tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
She’s been playing games in the Animal Crossing franchise since she was nine – and even took time off work when New Horizons was released in March.
“Even though it’s just a digital virtual world and I suppose nothing you do in it really actually makes a difference, having a little place where there’s not a global pandemic and everything is pretty OK is a really nice escape.”
In Animal Crossing you complete tasks to earn money to build and buy the things you want. Very much like real life.
It functions in real time – so if you log-on at midnight, it’ll be midnight in the game.
And this means, to get things done, you need to head back to your island pretty regularly – and at different times during your own day.
“I feel better mentally when I’m in a routine,” the 23-year-old explains, “so I’ve made it a part of my routine to get on the game early and do a few daily tasks and then I just carry on my workday as normal.
“And then in the evenings I get back home and just having something that makes me feel like I’m doing something productive, even if it’s watering plants or planting trees, is very therapeutic.
“I think it helps that it’s these meaningless tasks that don’t really make a difference, but they’re just special to you.”
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None Of Your Friendships Are Real
It’s unbelievable just how much Animal Crossing makes you care about anthropomorphic animals. You spend a lot of time in the games working and prettying up your home, sure. But there’s also a lot of relationship building involved. You make new acquaintances. You eventually turn those acquaintances into friends. You grow to appreciate their personalities and their quirks, and eventually, you find yourself wondering how Rosie the cat is doing even when you’re not playing.
That’s not how it works in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. In that particular entry, your so-called pals do not care about you unless you’re willing to spend a little money.
The characters in Pocket Camp come and go more quickly than in typical Animal Crossing titles, though they will visit a while longer if you meet their very specific demands. As The Verge states, “Your animal ‘friends’ will adamantly refuse to come stay with you unless you decorate your camp with furniture they consider stylish.” This unfortunately leaves you to tussle with a rather heartbreaking truth: “all of your relationships are conditional and based on status and money, rather than true affection and respect.”
If that isn’t downright depressing especially in a series known for its charming escapism then what is?
Why Dont They Make This Type Of Game More Often
Martijn van der Meulen says its hard to make a seemingly simple game like Animal Crossing and have people genuinely care about it.
Animal Crossing has charming characters and a rich world with lots to do. Building a game that your players want to invest their time in takes some careful balancing. Its also a huge project. When you think about all the mechanics in Animal Crossing, theyre all minigames that have had tons of thought and effort to make them fun. Its a big risk to try and succeed in this genre.
Eline Muijres agrees that games like this are deceptively complicated. My guess is that because the replay value is so high, its hard to top existing games. These games have long development times and are complex to make it might not be worth the risk for most developers. She says its especially risky for smaller indie developers who dont make free-to-play games.
Sam Sharma thinks there are two major reasons why these games are few and far between.
Its possible that the data on building and farming games suggest that the audience size for them is such that the peak of the market hits every three or four years or so. He adds that the low rate at which these games come out helps to ensure that the audience stays large enough and hungry enough for the next one to get popular.
Dennis van den Broek disagrees its a rare genre he says theyre just on different platforms, with different revenue models.
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Raymond’s Unique Character Design And Personality
Upon meeting Raymond for the first time, players will immediately notice that he has heterochromia, which is a condition that causes a person’s eye to be different colors. While this may not be a big deal for many, it certainly helped Raymond stand out from the rest of the villagers, given that he is the only one to have the condition as far as we can tell. Of course, Raymond’s eyes are not the only thing that is different about him. He also has the smug personality type, which for some reason, has been extremely popular among Animal Crossing fans. The smug personality was first introduced in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and during the height of that game, the villager Marshal, who is also smug, became as popular as Raymond is today.
To those unfamiliar with the smug personality type, villagers under this category will often act in a polite and gentleman-like manner. They will also easily get along with most villagers, and they can mix between almost all personality types. However, smug villagers may also appear conceited and they will stroke their egos at every chance they get, and conversations with them reveal just how cool they think they are. At the moment, it is difficult to pinpoint why many fans are drawn to this specific AC:NH personality type, but one valid reason is probably that there are only 35 smug villagers in the game, making it the second-most rare personality behind the sisterly type.