Animal Crossing’s Big Update Was Too Little, Too Late

Animal Crossing’s Big Update Was Too Little, Too Late
Image: Nintendo

When Animal Crossing launched last year, it was just what everyone needed: A relaxing game that enabled players to just hang out with friends.

At first, players were spoilt with lots of content. There was Bunny Day, May Day, the Museum upgrade, Summer Festival and diving, all between the game’s release in March and July 2020.

Eventually that content slowed to a crawl — and some of the existing updates left players frustrated. The Museum update, for instance, added Redd and Lief to the rotation of visiting villagers, with 8 visiting villagers that could appear over 5 days. But that meant some players would miss out on NPCs, and sometimes Redd’s wares would all be fake on a visit.

Not long after release, data miners discovered Brewster and Gyroids in Animal Crossing‘s code. Cooking and farming were discovered later in October 2020, leaving fans hopeful that something might finally be added. But by December, nothing had been implemented, and the Christmas and New Year’s Day events left players wanting. Only the dedicated still remained — until the Animal Crossing Direct was announced in September.

That left one of two reactions from players: “Yes finally!” or “So what.”

The Animal Crossing Happy Home Paradise expansion — and the free patch that base New Horizons players will receive along with it — is enormous, but it didn’t need to be. The offerings could have all been added bit by bit, like the previous updates. COVID has undoubtedly caused some trouble, but parts of Happy Home Paradise should have been added sooner to rectify players’ frustrations.

Take Brewster: we’ve known about him being in the game for 16 months. The cafe lets players have a coffee, invite friends from other islands for coffee, or invite characters through Amiibo. The Amiibo characters can bring other people, too, which isn’t anything especially ground breaking.

In older Animal Crossing games, The Roost was where K.K. would play his concert. It’d be good if that was still the case: K.K. currently plays in the plaza, which can get in the way of things.

Image: Nintendo

Kapp’n uses the pier that’s been in New Horizons since launch. Beforehand, players would use the pier for diving and fishing, but it’s entirely possible that Nintendo set the pier knowing Kapp’n would be added later.

In Happy Home Paradise, Kapp’n will take the player to new islands that can have a different season, or different plants. It’s a basically the same as a mystery island ticket — those things you’ve been able to buy since New Horizons launched — except the time of day, or year is different. Given players have had over a year to collect everything they needed, it’s a little defunct.

Harvey’s Island, meanwhile, is being turned into a shop for all your Island visitors, as well as Reese and Cyril. It’s a good addition, but one that was needed last year since it would have relieved the frustration players had waiting for Redd or other NPCs.

Gyroids could have been patched in earlier, too. Three months after New Horizons‘ release, every player I knew already had all the fossils. People began selling them, but once players knew they had enough bells, they simply left the fossils in the ground — what was the point of digging them up? So having to grow Gyroids now is more busywork that forces players to wait an extra day. You can at least customise Gyroids now to match a room, which is a nice touch at least.

Image: Nintendo / Reddit

Farming and cooking were discovered by data minters in October last year, and as per the update, cooking doesn’t provide any benefits aside from what you’d gain from eating fruit. You can use them as gifts, but most players are already great friends with their villagers. A better move would be to make cooked items provide different effects, like making it easier to lure rarer fish, or making fish easier to catch.

There’s also a Happy Home Designer element to the new update, where players design holiday homes on an archipelago, designing the interior, exterior and yard with an island style and type to best suit the customer. To make this all work, there’s a ton of new designer tools: the ability to add partitions, pillars, two different height counters, adjusting colours and the level of lighting, and more. Villagers on your island can also be added to the Archipelago, and if the NPC is happy with your work, you can offer to renovate the home on their original island, too. (Base players, however, will get access to a lot more furniture, fencing with different heights, hanging lights, as well as more recipes and hairstyles in the free update.)

They’re great inclusions, although the structure of the DLC means some of the new home designer tools are locked behind a paywall when they should be available to base New Horizons players too. The expansion in general adds a lot of content that’s been missing from Animal Crossing, but at $37.50 by itself or for “free” with the premium Nintendo Expansion Subscription Service (which costs $59.95/year), that’s a lot to pay for the last 17 months of pain.

For Animal Crossing fans, it’s great that so much content is finally being added all at once. But with so much of the player base having fallen off due to a lack of content, it will take a lot more than this to bring dedicated Animal Crossing fans back to the island. For many, it’s a case of too little, too late.

Renee O’Flynn is a long-time Kotaku Australia reader and contributor. You can check out her other articles here.


  • Imagine saying something is too little and too late and it hasnt even arrived yet. The gaming world is full of games that update a lot but with a lack of polish or attention to detail or features DLC so slim its barely worth the cost. Sure Animal Crossing doesnt add much but when it does it is very solid and rather free of overwhelming bugs that cripple lesser games.

    Personally I would be waiting until we SEE and experience the content, within the context of the wider game. THEN I will judge whether it is worth it, not shouting at clouds for what I think is going to happen.

  • I don’t know how exactly Nintendo was meant to shove this out sooner when they were in the middle of pandemic lockdowns in a country that has little to no working from home infrastructure or culture. Not only did everyone have to transition to the new style of work, but I doubt they could do that at the same time as their normal job given the difficulties reported in their media. It really does speak of a great deal of privilege that the sheer difficulties being experienced in other countries are being flat out ignored, as if everyone’s an expert on every other country’s pandemic experience.

    “COVID has undoubtedly caused some trouble” isn’t some glossing over that’ll work here. It HAS caused a great deal of trouble when Sakurai of all people was forced to record Smash character reveals from his own home due to lockdown requirements. And, like it or not, you don’t get to gloss over it because for you personally the pandemic wasn’t a good enough excuse when it was upturning the lives of people in other countries. This DLC was delayed for the same reason every other game has been delayed and “too little, too late” isn’t anywhere near close to a fair assessment.

  • This article is just a classic example of an entitled gamer who has no idea about game design…

    “parts of Happy Home Paradise should have been added sooner to rectify players’ frustrations. Take Brewster: we’ve known about him being in the game for 16 months.”
    Oh right, because since there was some stray code hinting he would be included the game at some point, that obviously means the entire Roost with all 3D models, dialogue, animations, etc had been finished since day 1 and Nintendo were just holding off on it to annoy you…

    “Gyroids could have been patched in earlier, too. Three months after New Horizons‘ release, every player I knew already had all the fossils.”
    Oh of course, all your friends were ready for it, how dare the devs not have finished working on the content then – during a pandemic…
    Seriously, mentions in the code doesn’t mean the content is done, hell it doesn’t even mean the content is coming. There’s also mentions in the code of further expansions to Nook’s Cranny but seeing as there are no further major updates coming, it seems that idea was cut but left in the code – something that often happens during development.

    “although the structure of the DLC means some of the new home designer tools are locked behind a paywall when they should be available to base New Horizons players too.”
    Why should they be? The 2.0 update finally makes New Horizons the game it should have been, so I’d complain if it was paid content but Happy Home Paradise is basically like adding a spin-off game. You paid (or more likely didn’t pay at all as a kotaku writer) for the launch edition, that doesn’t magically entitle you to all development work into the future… I mean, are you willing to give up your paycheck and keep working full time?

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