Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ neglect is the biggest missed opportunity in the game

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons couldn’t have been released at a better time. With everyone stuck at home looking for a way to escape reality, the Nintendo Switch game was for many a vacation away from the real world. How did it go so badly?

March 2020. One month among many many of us will remember being confined to our homes, only venturing outside for essential groceries or a medical appointment. With so much free time and a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety hanging in the air like a black cloud about to burst with rain, we looked for something, whatever, to distract us from reality.

Just at the right time, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch. An angel sent from above – well, something to make the days a little brighter and take us to a joyful island where thoughts of what was happening in real life were nonexistent, replaced by ideas of terraforming and feng shui plans.

It seemed like a game fans could play with over the next few months until life returns to some normalcy. Nintendo promised greatness – but sadly, over a year later – has not kept its promises. Updates have been scarce, great features are still missing, and much of the original playerbase hasn’t visited their town in months, leaving the weeds to grow and their villagers to fend for themselves. Just what’s going on?

Nintendo

New Horizons has helped many people at the start of a very stressful year.

Animal Crossing: Dark Horizons

When the game first launched, some much-loved features from previous entries in the series, like Crazy Redd’s Black Market, were missing. Nintendo promised frequent updates that would slowly add more content, and for a while, they did. Leif has made a comeback, followed by the devious salesman, and more.

Holiday events were also left out, with the developer adding them just ahead of time via fixes, supposedly to prevent “time travelers” (the people who adjust their in-game clocks to move forward) to be able to access exclusive items before they’re supposed to. It was all understandable at the time; I mean, the world is falling apart, right? Things are going to take longer than usual.

But over the months, the updates have become rarer, the features being more disappointing than the previous ones. While the latest patch – 1.10.0 – was added in May, the only new content it brought was Items, the rest being repeating events from 2020. The last time players had anything substantial , it was in March with the collaboration of Sanrio and Custom. Pro + design editor.

animal crossing new horizons pro design
Nintendo

The updates came slowly, but they weren’t groundbreaking.

Nintendo should have delayed it

But that’s not enough, however. Not for some fans. “Where’s Brewster?” Echoed loudly in Animal Crossing Twitter. “When is the coffee coming? And Tortimer? And they’re right to be upset, honestly. It’s not fair that a game has waited eight years and prayed excessively for every E3 season to be released half-empty, with updates coming three times a year. It is not good enough.

In the end, New Horizons should have been delayed. Yes, it would’ve sucked to wait even longer, but at least the features that should have been there at launch would. And if Nintendo wanted to add additional content later via updates, so much the better – it would feel like a bonus rather than a necessity required to enjoy the game.

Even the collaborations seem weak in the sense that there is so much missed potential out there. The Super Mario set was good, but Sanrio’s crossover was locked behind amiibo cards that were scalped up to the sky and hardly anyone could get their hands on it. It’s cheaper and easier to buy unofficial, handmade goods on Etsy. How is that fair? And are other collaborations to come?

sanrio amiibo cards animal crossing new horizons
Nintendo

Amiibo cards unlock villagers and Sanrio-themed items.

It’s easy to imagine that 2022 could be a better year for New Horizons as the world slowly but surely returns to some of its normalcy. But with the way Animal Crossing was treated in 2021, I’m not holding my breath. And while Nintendo miraculously pulls an incredible and mother-of-all update out of its hat, it’s probably too late for the game’s popularity to return to what it was at the start of last year.

As a fan since the days of GameCube, begging my great-grandmother to give me Population: Growing for Christmas when I was eight, that’s tough. It’s a series close to my heart and I was so obsessed with the Switch title, I put in 400 hours in the first three months. But it’s impossible to ignore that much of the excitement was due to the promise that the following months would be filled with incredible updates that would make the game better. I feel like I have been duped.

And I am not alone here. If you look in Animal Crossing Facebook groups and online forums, there are countless stories of people giving up after hundreds of hours because there is nothing else to do; they’ve finished the museum, fully upgraded their home, and no updates add anything substantial to extend their playing time. If Nintendo had made New Horizons complete from the start, it would still be a big success.


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