Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a much anticipated instalment in the Animal Crossing series. It’s release in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic made it all the more popular, with people needing to stay at home and find other ways to socialise. Two and a half years on, and one DLC addition later and AC:NH is still a firm favourite for millions of players worldwide.
What makes Animal Crossing: New Horizons so popular?
Players will all have their own reasons for choosing the game. For many, the escapism is appealing – the ability to build a peaceful life on a small island sounds perfect. For others it is a design tool. They re-make their island over and over, regularly wiping the data before restarting the game. Of course, there are collectors and completionists. Collectors of recipes, items, villagers… the challenge to collect every available thing in a game motivates a lot of players!
Nostalgia also plays a part, as it does with many Nintendo games. Players in their 20s and 30s would have seen the release of many Animal Crossing games, right the way back to Animal Crossing (2001) for Nintendo 64 and GameCube. Familiarity is comfortable, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons has familiarity by the truck load.
Sales for the game are almost at 40 million copies, with 31 million sales in 2020 alone. That means New Horizons has outsold all other Animal Crossing games combined!
No game is without its problems
It should come as no surprise that some players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons can get a little frustrated. Every game has a laundry list of problems from little niggles to gaping plot holes. New Horizons has its fair share of complaints – not to put you off! Mostly, people are frustrated with some quality of life things, even after the version 2.0 update. The update helped with storage solutions also introducing food recipes alongside the crafting we already had.
Unfortunately, the more mechanically complex problems were not addressed. Not being able to buy or craft set quantities of items or build cliffs and lakes faster than one block at a time is a constant source of frustration for some players. In defence of the game – it is supposed to be enjoyed slowly. Rushing through was never the goal, however, there is a risk of monotony if repetition is not your idea of relaxation.
The Game that Never Ends
There is a storyline in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. According to How Long to Beat, the it takes around 60 hours on average to complete the main objectives. The narrative is there, but exists in a functional way. Completing the story gradually unlocks the game features so you can play freely at the end. If you are a second player on a shared console you won’t be able to complete the story at all. Once the player has finished the story the game doesn’t really change… but you do gain the ability to edit the island.
For some players the game ends with the collection of all the items, recipes, or stamps in the Nook Miles log, but for others the end of the story is the start of the game. Flattening the island and designing it again from the ground up is a challenge that a surprising number of players take on. It takes dedication, with no motivation for reward at the end, and there is no limit to the number of times you can do it.
Ultimately, when the game is there for peaceful escapism and familiar comfort, do you really need a goal?