Friday, March 20th marked the beginning of a new generation in the world of Animal Crossing as Nintendo released the long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
The video game, perfect for new and old fans alike, did exceptionally well upon release and sold over 1.88 million copies in the first three days of being out according to Nintendo Life. This astounding release is comparable to the previous record set by Pokemon Sword and Shield, which had 1.3 million sales in the first three days of launch. This figure makes Animal Crossing: New Horizons the Nintendo Switch console’s most massive launch yet, and this number doesn’t even account for the number of copies sold digitally on the Nintendo E-store.
The game’s predecessor, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, was released in June of 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS and is one of the best-selling games for this system, surpassing 12.45 million copies sold worldwide. It won’t be surprising if New Horizons exceeds these figures.
The successful launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a result of two main contributing factors.
First of all, up until a month before its release, Nintendo had released almost zero information on the game. It wasn’t until a 30-minute-long Nintendo Direct on February 20th that players were finally able to gain insight into what the game would entail. This marketing strategy was ingenious on Nintendo’s part as the anticipation for returning players was already very high, and holding back information until only a month before the release made the excitement grow “exponentially” as the March 20th release date drew nearer.
The second reason as to why New Horizons did so well in its first weekend can be attributed to when it was released. Mid-March marked a new turning point for most of the world in terms of the COVID-19 situation. With many countries shutting down and only permitting essential services, video games and other media such as movies became the most sought out ways to pass the time.
Animal Crossing, as a franchise, is different from most other video games. There isn’t a race to beat the final boss or enemies to slaughter along the way. Instead, players are encouraged to relax and take the game one day at a time. There is no end to the game as you can keep playing for as long as you wish to do so.
In New Horizons, players begin on a deserted island with no money and no belongings alongside two other non-playable characters. They then set up their tent and name the island. From there, how the game progresses and the speed with which it does is entirely up to the player.
There are many activities to keep the game from becoming boring. Everything from catching bugs, excavating to find fossils, gardening, and fishing are all daily tasks that cannot be exhausted. Also, the game introduces a feature not found in previous Animal Crossing games: crafting. Players can collect resources such as wood and minerals and turn these into furniture that can be placed in their home or on the island. As time goes on, more options are unlocked, and players will find themselves being able to terraform the island.
In addition to all of this, the video game supports both local and online play. Players are able to play on one console with their family members or connect to the internet to visit their friends’ islands. Despite all of the social distance measures taking place currently, this feature still allows players to (virtually) visit their friends and family, or even go on a romantic island date with their significant other.
At a time when the world seems to be collapsing around us, this video game provides the perfect escape. In Animal Crossing, almost anything is possible, and the magic of the game continues to captivate players throughout their gameplay. It isn’t rare to find players who have clocked over 100 hours of gameplay in their first week of playing. Overall, this game could not have been released at a better time.
Nintendo was able to keep the franchise alive between releases with an update in 2016 that added Amiibo functionality. In addition to this, a spin-off game entitled Happy Home Designer was released in Summer of 2015 as well as Pocket Camp, a mobile app released in Fall of 2017. Neither game did nearly as well as New Leaf, but still kept players on-board until the 2020 release of New Horizons.
This game, even in the first couple hours of gameplay, does not disappoint and has been well worth the 7-year wait. The graphics, soundtrack, storyline, and solely the unlimited possibilities on your very own deserted island make Animal Crossing: New Horizons a must-have video game for every Nintendo Switch owner, and may even be the reason for someone to buy a Switch console.