Animal Crossing: New Horizons was born into strange circumstances. It arrived on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic to a world struggling with a new reality. Amongst all the pain and hardship, Animal Crossing represented a shiny, glimmering bubble of hope. It was the perfect escape for those looking for an excuse to tune out.
New Horizons represented a world unaffected by the financial and emotional woes brought on by coronavirus. Back then, we all thought lockdown would last mere weeks and life would quickly return to some form of normality. Six months later, the world looks fairly similar to what it did when the game first released.
The weeks after New Horizons’ launch were filled with endless hours of building, collecting, fishing and catching up with digital friends. It was pure, unfiltered joy. A game that allowed you to share your creativity and become who you wanted to be.
Some clung to it like a lifeline. Others dipped their feet in more casually. Even if you didn’t play it yourself, you heard about it from friends. It was everywhere.
As each content update came and went, more activities, celebrations and characters were added in. Each breathed new life into the game, lending it an impressive longevity that continues today.
Six months on, here’s how Animal Crossing: New Horizons has developed since release.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons released on March 20, 2020. The journey began here. Around the same time New Horizons released, most workplaces and schools instituted a WFH policy as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic worsened. With more time than ever, casual and hardcore gamers turned to Animal Crossing: New Horizons to hang out with their friends, relax and flex their creative skills. The game enjoyed several weeks of prosperity during this time as it gained a higher profile in the mainstream and more people discovered its delightful charm.
- Bunny Day threatened everyone on April 1. New Horizons’ first event began on April 1 and lasted two weeks. It featured a hyper-energetic rabbit instructing players to collect multi-coloured eggs from trees, rivers, rocks and the sky. After several days of being bombarded by Zipper T. Bunny and his extremely annoying eggs, fans vocalised their frustration and disappointment with the event. Eventually, Nintendo adjusted the spawn probability of the Bunny Day eggs and life continued on as normal. Those who bothered to collect the required eggs were rewarded with a Bunny Day wand recipe at the conclusion of the event.
- Various creative Animal Crossing projects emerged in April and June. Gamers are endlessly creative people, and they got the chance to share their talents with the world in April and June. As New Horizons grew more popular, people began exploring various uses for the game. Some people used it to re-create their favourite games. Others used it as a political tool to spread the Hong Kong protests online. (The game was pulled from some stores in China because of these acts.) A Museum in the Philippines used New Horizons to share traditional filipino fashion. Some people used it for homeschooling. The creative uses for the game proved to be limitless as the obsession with the game continued.
- Animal Crossing reported to be Nintendo’s third biggest launch title on April 22. Sales data from the U.S. in April indicated New Horizons had become the third biggest launch game for Nintendo ever. The game was recorded as only being beaten by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. For a title with formerly niche appeal, it was an incredible result and cemented Animal Crossing’s place as a flagship Nintendo title. Later, Nintendo revealed the game had sold 13.41 million units globally in its first six weeks.
- Leif, Redd and other seasonal events were added to the game on April 23. New Horizons got its first major expansion in late April. It added in brand new events like May Day (where players had to overcome a grassy maze), Nature Day (where players could plant new flowers for Nook Miles), International Museum Day (which featured a stamp rally) and Wedding Season, a 30-day long event where players helped alpacas Reese and Cyrus create the perfect wedding day photos. The museum also got a major upgrade with an art gallery added in and Redd now able to make visits. Many players were tricked by this dodgy salesman in April.
- Elijah Wood visited a player’s island in April, kickstarting a celebrity revolution. On April 24, Elijah Wood of Lord of the Rings fame visited a player’s islands and demonstrated impeccable manners. Subsequent reveals from multiple celebrities like Danny Trejo and Chrissy Teigen revealed the mainstream appeal of the game and how popular it had become around the world. Following this, Gary Whitta’s New Horizons talk show, Animal Talking, launched.
- Politics and Animal Crossing collided in May. In early May, Labor Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cybersecurity, Tim Watts, recommended parents purchase Animal Crossing to stay safe and sane while in coronavirus lockdown. Over in the U.S., more politicians endorse the game with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez going on a mini-tour of Animal Crossing islands across the country.
- Summer came to Animal Crossing on June 25. In the game’s second largest expansion, it introduced new summer activities like diving in the ocean, collecting sea creatures and building mermaid furniture. It re-introduced the scallop-loving otter, Pascal, and also significantly expanded the museum. For many lapsed players, it was a solid reason to return to the game and inspired many more hours of gameplay.
- Wave two brought fireworks, dreaming and more on July 30. New Horizons’ summer updates continued in late July with the addition of nightly August celebrations with fireworks and balloons, as well as New Leaf‘s island-hopping dreams feature. This let players visit other islands in their dreams and connected them to players from across the internet. Also featured in this update were limited cloud saves and the return of the cursed King Tut mask.
It’s been a long journey for Animal Crossing: New Horizons so far, with plenty of excitement along the way.
While many of us have moved on to other games, Nintendo has continuously given new reasons to come back to New Horizons via limited-time activities, new features and collectibles. With more content added in every few weeks, it’s likely Animal Crossing‘s popularity will continue long into the later half of the year and beyond. We don’t currently know what future updates look like (outside of a Halloween-related tease that might be our only taste of Halloween this year), but there’s plenty of opportunities to expand the existing game beyond what we’ve seen already.
We look forward to seeing what Nintendo has to offer. Are you still going with the game? Tell us how you feel about Animal Crossing six months down the track in the comments below.