For four years, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been the top-selling title for Nintendo Switch. Now, its crown is being threatened by an unlikely contender: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While the title certainly has a dedicated fanbase, the success of New Horizons is unprecedented for the franchise.
In its latest financial report, Nintendo detailed its earnings over the last nine-month period. It included a detailed breakdown of sales figures for the latest Switch games, including the fact that Animal Crossing‘s first entry on Switch sold a whopping 31.18 million units, just behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s 33.18 million.
It’s an impressive statistic on its own, but when you consider Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s lifetime sales are calculated over a four-year period from 2017, and Animal Crossing only launched in March 2020, its success becomes much clearer. Part of this is likely due to the nature and timing of Animal Crossing‘s launch.
In Australia, the game landed during a period of uncertainty as shops shut down and everyone was forced to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you had a copy of the game, it was one of the few ways to still hang out and connect with friends, and this fuelled a solid six-month period where Animal Crossing: New Horizons became a haven for the socially isolated.
In a time when everything seemed gloomy, we all needed Animal Crossing.
Its sudden, booming popularity reflects the state of the world in 2020 and the desire for more wholesome, calming adventures. Given content is still rolling out in 2021 it’s likely Animal Crossing will maintain its longevity and remain one of Nintendo’s ‘big’ games for the year.
Should sales continue down the path they’re currently on, Animal Crossing will exceed the Mario franchise in popularity on the Switch — not bad at all for a cutesy life simulator.
So, what’s next for Animal Crossing?
The sales data for Animal Crossing: New Horizons likely exceeds the expectations Nintendo placed on the franchise. Paired with the success of the Pocket Camp mobile spin-off and the popularity of Animal Crossing‘s amiibo card collectibles, it’s now clearer than ever there’s a robust market for the franchise.
It could mean a sequel to New Horizons won’t take eight years to arrive. It could mean more spin-offs like Happy Home Designer and Amiibo Festival. These were neat experiments that didn’t quite hit, but the Animal Crossing franchise is still ripe for other spin-offs like them.
An island designer game could be a neat addition to the franchise. As could another Mario Party-style adventure.
Whatever Nintendo’s plans for the future are, they’re likely to include Animal Crossing as a major flagship franchise going forward.
After decades occupying the B-tier of Nintendo games, it’s finally time for Animal Crossing to shine.