Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing New Horizons.jpg
Developer(s)Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s)Nintendo
Director(s)Aya Kyogoku
Producer(s)Hisashi Nogami
Programmer(s)
  • Yoshitaka Takeshita
  • Hiromichi Miyake
Artist(s)Koji Takahashi
Writer(s)Makoto Wada
Composer(s)
  • Yasuaki Iwata
  • Yumi Takahashi
  • Shinobu Nagata
  • Sayako Doi
  • Masato Ohashi
SeriesAnimal Crossing
Platform(s)Nintendo Switch
ReleaseMarch 20, 2020
Genre(s)Social simulation
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Animal Crossing: New Horizons[a] is a 2020 life simulation game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch; it is the fifth main game in the Animal Crossing series. In New Horizons, the player controls a customizable character who moves to a deserted island after purchasing a package from Tom Nook, a tanuki character who has appeared in every entry in the Animal Crossing series. Taking place in real time, the player can explore the island in a nonlinear fashion, gathering and crafting items, catching insects and fish, and developing the island into a community of anthropomorphic animals.

New Horizons was a major commercial success, selling 31 million copies worldwide and breaking the console game record for most digital units sold in a single month with five million copies. It is the 15th best-selling video game in history, the best-selling game in the Animal Crossing series, the best-selling Nintendo Switch exclusive title, the second best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch,[b] and the second-best selling game of all time in Japan.[c] Its success has been attributed in part to its release amid global stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It received acclaim from critics, with many praising its gameplay and customization options and calling it the best game in the series; it won the award for Game of the Year at the Japan Game Awards, and received three nominations at The Game Awards 2020, including for Game of the Year, ultimately winning Best Family Game.

Gameplay[edit]

As in previous Animal Crossing games, New Horizons is a life simulation game played in real time. The player controls a character who moves to a deserted island after purchasing a deserted island package from Tom Nook, a tanuki character who is a staple of the series.[1] The game proceeds in an open-ended fashion as the player explores the island, and develops it into a community of anthropomorphic animals.[2] Players can collect different items to use as decorations within the game. Like in the 2017 spin-off game Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for mobile devices, the game introduces a crafting system that allows the player to convert materials into tools and furniture, which can be used to decorate the game's interior and exterior spaces.[3][4]

The game allows the player to customize the appearance of their character, and does not lock specific hairstyles or facial features to specific genders.[5] Players are additionally able to select their character's skin color, a feature introduced in the 2015 spin-off game Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.[3] Nook Miles, an in-game currency earned by completing various tasks, can be used to purchase premium items.[6] Players are able to invite animals to live on their island, and have the option to choose or influence where the animal constructs their home.[7] The game's weather adjusts to the seasons of the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, depending on the player's real-world location, a first for the Animal Crossing series.[6][8]

Once the player has made sufficient progress in New Horizons, Isabelle appears in the game.[2] Additionally, Mr. Resetti no longer lectures the player about saving due to the game's autosave function and the removal of the ability to reset. Instead, it is implied that he is the operator for the Rescue Service.[9] K.K. Slider also appears in the game after the player's island has achieved a three star rating.[10]

The game supports one island per Switch system.[11] Animal Crossing: New Horizons supports both local and online co-op gameplay, with up to four players locally and eight players online able to occupy an island at any given time.[3] The game does not connect directly with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, though there are collaboration items between the two games.[7] The game does support amiibo cards and figures from the Animal Crossing series. Nintendo Switch Online cloud saving was added during a late July update, allowing users to recover game data if their Switch is broken or lost.[12] Additional content is added every few months, added on every update by downloading the latest update from Nintendo.[13]

Development[edit]

Development of a new main series Animal Crossing game for Nintendo Switch was confirmed in a Nintendo Direct on September 13, 2018, with an unspecified 2019 release date.[14] Although the game was announced in 2018, game director Aya Kyogoku confirmed that the game had begun development in 2012, shortly after the release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf;[15] she stated how concepts for the game were forming long before ideas for the Nintendo Switch even existed.[16] Nintendo released the game's title and first trailer at its E3 2019 Nintendo Direct on June 11, 2019.[17] The game was delayed until March 20, 2020, with Yoshiaki Koizumi stating that in order "to ensure [that] the game [was] the best it [could] be, [Nintendo had to] ask that [players] wait a little longer than [Nintendo itself] thought."[17]

Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser cited a desire to avoid crunch and maintain a healthy work–life balance for Nintendo employees as the primary reason for the delay.[18] Nintendo's stock market value posted a 3.5% loss in reaction to the delay, amounting to a total loss in value of more than US$1 billion.[19][20] Hyogoku stated that the success of the Animal Crossing series was due to the fact that the developers make each game different enough from the last, to bring appeal to newcomers yet keep the core concept for returning players.[21] Kyogoku and Hisashi Nogami, the producer, stated that they selected a deserted island as the game's setting to differentiate it from previous Animal Crossing games, which are set in established villages, and to allow greater freedom to customize the game's world.[4] Other concepts, such as internet and multiplayer, were able to be implemented unlike previous games due to advancing hardware.[22]

Design[edit]

The developers made sure to make the game not only welcoming for new players, but to also retain core concepts from the previous games to keep older fans of the series happy. A crafting system was implemented to allow the player to keep the player from running out of things to do after the in-game stores close. Additionally, the developers noticed that players would repeatedly restart games in the previous series over and over, in hopes to get an island shape that they want. Because of this, terraforming was implemented to allow for easy shaping of the island. Another issue they noticed was "time traveling"; due to the game running in real time, players would change the clock on the console to put themselves further into the future so they don't have to wait real time. To help avoid this, they made sure terraforming and crafting did not have any wait-time restrictions.[16]

Release[edit]

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on March 20, 2020. Video game retailer EB Games attracted criticism for allowing fans who pre-ordered the game along with Doom Eternal to line up at its flagship Canadian location on Yonge Street, Toronto amid a COVID-19 pandemic in the country, when all levels of government urged the public to close non-essential businesses and maintain social distancing.[23]

Updates[edit]

Nintendo confirmed that Animal Crossing: New Horizons would receive frequent post-release updates, most of them being based around real-life events and holidays.[13] On the week of the game's release, Nintendo pushed an update in preparation for the game's "Bunny Day" event in April, which is loosely based on Easter. A second update was released at the end of April, including events for "Nature Day" (based on Earth Day) and May Day, and the return of Animal Crossing: New Leaf special character called "Leif" as a gardening supplies peddler.[24]

A third update was announced at the end of June for summer and split into two parts. Released at the beginning of July, the first wave of the update included the return of diving from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, long-time popular character Pascal, and a new character similar to existing special character Gulliver but dressed as a pirate named Gullivarrr.[25][26] The second wave of the summer update released late July, re-introduced Firework shows, the return of the character Luna and dream towns, as well as the ability to back up save data.[27]

In late September a subsequent update focused on a fall theme and added farmable pumpkins, that when harvested, can be crafted into Halloween themed items, candy, costumes, customizable "body paint", and new eye colors.[28] The Halloween event showcased Jack, the Czar of Halloween, who challenged players to collect candy for the event.[29] The update also added the ability to control in-game reactions through the Animal Crossing: Nook Link section of the Nintendo Switch App.[30]

A winter update was released on November 19.[31] Two characters from previous games will return for Thanksgiving and Christmas; they are Franklin for 'Turkey Day' and Jingle for 'Toy Day', respectively.[32] The update also included new 'hip reactions' (e.g. sitting down and dancing) and more ethnically diverse hairstyles. Additionally a 'save data transfer' ability was made available.

The next free update was confirmed for 28 January 2021.[33] Nintendo also announced the Festivale event for 15 February 2021, during which players will be able to capture various colorful feathers and trade them for dance moves. Another free update has been announced for March 2021.

Reception[edit]

Critical[edit]

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has received "universal acclaim" according to review aggregator Metacritic,[46] becoming the highest-rated game in the series on the website. However, the game has been subject to review bombing due to its handling of Switch profiles and multiplayer.[47][48]

Jack Rear of The Telegraph praised the game, writing that its elements "[add] up to the perfect DIY recipe for the most chilled out, relaxing, and engaging life simulator ever."[49]

Sarah Fields of Game Rant wrote that, "[i]n addition to making full use of the Switch's graphical capabilities, New Horizons fixes a myriad of annoyances and problems that New Leaf had", and called New Horizons "a laid-back game that ultimately lets the player choose what they're going to do at any given moment".[50] The game was also named game of the year at the Japan Game Awards.[51]

Sales[edit]

New Horizons sold over 1.88 million physical copies at launch in Japan, breaking the record held by Pokémon Sword and Shield for biggest Switch game debut in the region.[52] The game sold 720,791 physical copies in its second week in Japan,[53] selling more than Animal Crossing: New Leaf did in its first week. As of 26 April 2020, the game has sold 3,895,159 physical copies in Japan.[54]

In North America, it was the best-selling game of March 2020, becoming the second-bestselling game of 2020 and surpassing the lifetime sales of all previous Animal Crossing games. New Horizons generated the third highest known launch month sales of any Nintendo-published game (since The NPD Group began tracking video game sales from 1995), after Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008).[55]

In the United Kingdom, the physical launch sales were 3.6 times larger than those of New Leaf,[clarification needed] making it the biggest Switch game launch in the region.[56] It also sold triple the units of the second-bestselling game, new entry Doom Eternal.[57] In Germany, New Horizons sold more than 200,000 copies after a few days of release, for which it has been certified with a Platinum Sales Award by German trade association GAME.[58]

Nielsen division SuperData Research estimates that New Horizons sold five million digital copies worldwide in March 2020, setting a new digital sales record by selling more digital units in a single calendar month than any other console game in history. It surpassed the previous record set by Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018).[59]

Nintendo reported that 11.77 million units sold by March 31, 2020, and a total of 13.41 million units after six weeks on the market, making it "the best start ever for a Nintendo Switch title" by the end of its 2019 fiscal year,[60] as well as one of the best-selling games on the console and the best-selling game of the Animal Crossing series.[61] It later sold 22.4 million units worldwide after three months by June 2020,[62] and 26.04 million units after six months by September 2020.[63]

On August 9, 2020, it was reported that Animal Crossing: New Horizons became the second-highest selling game of all time in Japan, only after Pokemon Red and Blue.[64] It was also reported in November 2020 that it was the fastest game to sell over six million copies in Japan.[65] It was the year's best-selling game in Japan, second best-selling game in the United Kingdom, and third best-selling game in the United States.[66] The game grossed $654 million in global digital sales by the end of 2020, making it the year's seventh highest-grossing digital premium game worldwide.[67] As of December 31, 2020, the game has sold 31.18 million units, making it the second best-selling Nintendo Switch game, behind only Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.[68]

In January 2021, The NPD Group revealed the best-selling games of 2020 in the United States. New Horizons was ranked third behind Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The publication revealed that New Horizons was the best-selling Nintendo game in terms of physical copies in the US since 2010's Wii Fit Plus.[69] It was also the second best-selling game of the year in physical copies in the United Kingdom, behind FIFA 21.[70]

Impact[edit]

Reviewers and news organizations highlighted the game's sense of escapism, in contrast to the COVID-19 pandemic, as attributing to its success.[71] An NBC News op-ed declared, "[New Horizons] is the coronavirus distraction we needed" at a time of widespread social distancing and stay-at-home orders.[72] Imad Khan of The New York Times called the game a "phenomenon", and stated that "with the world in the grip of a pandemic, the wildly popular game is a conveniently timed piece of whimsy, particularly for millennials."[73]

Many people have utilized the game in different ways for business and/or socialization. Funerals, weddings, and graduations were held in the game, with even a talk show spawning, with the name Animal Talking.[74] The Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has regularly held live streams of animal feedings.[75]

The Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign released official digital yard signs for use in the game that players could use to decorate their islands.[76][77]

The game was used by democracy activists in Hong Kong, including Joshua Wong, as a platform to protest virtually. In reaction, the game was removed from online stores in China such as Taobao where it had been available on the grey market.[78][79][80] Nintendo announced on November 19, 2020 a new set of guidelines for using the game, including the ban on using it for political activities.[81]

Twitter revealed, in early January 2021, that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the most tweeted-about game in 2020.[82]

Related media[edit]

A tie-in manga series, Atsumare Dōbutsu no Mori: Nonbiri Shima Dayori (あつまれ どうぶつの森〜のんびり島だより〜, lit. "Gather Animal's Forest: Carefree Island News"), began serialization in the manga magazine Ciao on December 28, 2019. The series is written and illustrated by Minori Katō, and follows a villager named Hana who moves to an unpopulated island.[83] Another manga series, Atsumare Dōbutsu no Mori: Nonbiri Shima Diary, launched in the June 2020 issue of Coro Coro Comics.[84]

Nook Tails, a tie-in comic strip series by Cho Hanayo featuring the characters Tom Nook, Timmy, and Tommy, began serialization on the game's Japanese website on October 15, 2019.[85][86] An English-language translation of the series has been posted on the game's English Twitter account beginning on March 4, 2020.[87] Multiple guide books have been released in Japan, some with well-over 1000 pages. These guides have been greatly popular in the country, with large queues (despite shelter-in-place orders), and prompting mass reselling online.[88]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Known in Japan as Atsumare Dōbutsu no Mori (Japanese: あつまれ どうぶつの森, lit. Animal Forest: Gather)
  2. ^ Behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
  3. ^ Behind Pokémon Red, Blue, and Green.

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