Video Games

Animal Crossing Fans Are Reaching a Breaking Point

One year on, New Horizons’ appeal is wearing thin—and Nintendo won’t do anything about it.

A character wearing glasses, a hat, a backpack, a gray shirt, and red pants stands by a road sign with several arrows pointing left and right. There are green bushes behind him, and a blue sky with a single white cloud above.
Nintendo

In March 2020, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the darling of quarantine. Since its lockdown launch, more than 31 million Nintendo Switch players worldwide have fallen in love with the life simulation game’s tropical island vibes, charming characters, and day-to-day pastoral grind that offered a balm to the chaotic world out their windows.

One year later, though, that veneer is wearing thin for many of the game’s biggest fans. As they settle into New Horizons’ daily routine of fishing, planting flowers, and talking to their neighbors, many of its flaws, previously masked by that new-game smell, have been thrown into sharp relief—and Nintendo has yet to address them.

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A quick look at the reactions to Wednesday’s latest seasonal event update, a lukewarm rehash of the same tedious event from last year, shows how fed up many of Animal Crossing’s most dedicated fans are with the current state of this ongoing game:

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Much of the discontent stems from Nintendo’s seeming refusal to acknowledge the various, much-needed quality-of-life changes and overhauls that Animal Crossing players have been requesting since the game’s release last year. What was once easy to brush off due to its relative newness—the lacking content compared with previous Animal Crossing entries, the tedious management systems—has become frustrating, even a huge turnoff for those who made this game one of Nintendo’s fastest-selling releases ever. (New Horizons is even the second-highest selling game of all time in Japan, for further proof of its gigantic commercial impact.)

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Among the biggest issues: Players still can’t craft more than one item at a time, a long-requested feature. To meet up online with friends, players must sit through an interminable conversation with a talkative dodo that fans have been begging to be streamlined. Tools like shovels and fishing rods still break down without warning, forcing players to stop what they’re doing and rebuild them repeatedly. Fan-favorite shops from past generations of games, like Brewster’s café and the attached nightclub (hosted by DJ K.K. Slider), are still missing. So, too, are other beloved side characters, like the fashionable giraffe Gracie and amateur comedian Dr. Shrunk.

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Even as early as May last year, fans were clamoring for an update that would fix some of these issues. That’s when some Animal Crossing players mocked up a shockingly well-edited video that reads as a wish list of quality-of-life gameplay changes, none of which have yet to emerge in New Horizons even now, a year later. The video has more than 1 million views:

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As Nintendo seemingly ignores these calls for user-friendly overhauls, it does continue to push free monthly updates to the game, like the Mario crossover event from February that added Mushroom Kingdom–inspired items to the game. These are welcome enough, sure. But this fallow stream of new-ish content has done little to assuage fans who remain skeptical that Nintendo is listening. As Animal Crossing: New Horizons starts to hit repeat events as it enters its second year on the market, it feels even more necessary than ever for the company to offer twists and larger-scale additions to keep all players engaged.

It may seem like it’s not worth complaining about free updates, but when fans compare New Horizons’ list of offerings to that of its predecessor, 2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS, it does not flatter the Nintendo Switch game. That game went without any meaningful updates until 2016, when Nintendo released a free content patch that added tons of new characters, events, and locations into the game. Players were happily sustained by what New Leaf came with out of the box for three and a half years. New Horizons? Not the case, even with those regular free updates ostensibly trying to keep the game fresh. For the game that promises to keep on playing even when you’re not, the reasons to check back in are thinning out.

There could be hope on the horizon(s) for players. Super Mario Party, a game that Nintendo seemingly abandoned after its 2018 release, just received a major update that adds an online mode, a much-requested feature, so players can now destroy friendships over the internet. Maybe Animal Crossing fans will be similarly surprised by another, similar left-field move from Nintendo. For now, though? The disenchantment continues to build, driven by each update that brings little new to the table—and even less of what the players have asked for.

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