By Laura Antunez / Staff Writer
Despite record-breaking unemployment rates, weeks in forced social isolation, and a virus that is still baffling scientists two months after being declared a global pandemic, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has seen unprecedented success.
“People want an escape from the harsh reality of the pandemic,” said 22-year-old Luis Thomas, a junior developer at Farelogix. “They can escape to this beautiful island.”
According to Nintendo, their last fiscal year ending in March saw a 41 percent operating profit increase. Within its first 6 weeks, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has sold over 13 million units and has caused an unprecedented influx of Nintendo Switch purchases.
Erin Brockhouse is an aspiring director that has a bachelor’s in fine arts for film and television from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.
Brockhouse has been a lifelong fan of Animal Crossing, having played the original game on her laptop. She has also played Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pocket Camp.
“New Horizons is fun because you get to craft things like in Pocket Camp,” said Brockhouse. “In New Leaf, you couldn’t craft anything, but in New Horizons you can craft stuff for the whole island.”
She says the appeal of Animal Crossing, in general, is that overall it’s very relaxing, which comes in handy during the first global pandemic in 100 years.
“There’s not really a goal,” she said. “You have debt but there’s no interest or deadline.”
Thomas, although working full time from home for a software company, still finds the time to play during his off time.
He says his favorite part of the game is how the game integrates things that are happening in the outside world into the game.
“If it’s raining outside it rains in the game,” he said. “The bugs and the fish you can catch is by their season.”
Both Brockhouse and Thomas agree that the pandemic has added to the overall popularity of the game. They say that since the game is always adding new features and adding new “construction” it makes a perfect past time.
Julia Gomez is an FIU Journalism student and her brother Joseph Gomez is also working on a Broadcast Journalism degree from FIU. Julia, like Brockhouse, has been a longtime fan of Animal Crossing.
“I think it’s a lot of sentimental value because I’ve gotten every copy of this game since it came out for the DS,” she said.
She too believes the recent success is also highly attributed to the pandemic.
“I think it’s a major coping mechanism because you get to hang out with your friends and talk to your friends through Animal Crossing,” she said. “It’s a game that lets you pretend to be an adult without all the stress.”
Her brother Joseph also likes the fact that the game doesn’t penalize you for not paying your bills on time and likes the responsive game software.
“You can be a homeowner with no real consequences if you don’t want to pay your bills,” he said. “It lets you gain certain perks as you evolve and expand.”
He also said that the progression of the game is very subtle but noticeable.
“The game follows 24-hour cycles so it mimics outside conditions,” said Joseph. “They have shops where you can sell stuff but they close at 10 o’clock. Sometimes I’m excited to get out of work so I can sell stuff.”
The museum is another favorite aspect of the game for Joseph. He says that you can collect different bugs and fish and then visit it with friends in the game. He also said because many bugs and fish only come in seasons, one can plan ahead to catch them next time they’re available.
“Some fish only come out for three months out of the year,” he said. “I missed a fish that ended in March and I was bummed out but at the same time it’s like well I can’t wait till next March so I can catch the fish.”
Julia has also been using the game as a substitute for dates with her boyfriend.
“Since quarantine started I haven’t been able to see my boyfriend because his mom has a compromised immune system so he can’t leave the house,” she said. “We haven’t seen each other in about a month so basically we’ve been going on dates in the game.”
Gabriela Fernandez is a 23-year-old teacher in training and has been playing Animal Crossing since the fourth grade. She said that even if there were no pandemic, it would not stop her from playing Animal Crossing as much as she does now.
“Because of this pandemic I’m able to play more with other people,” she said. “But since everyone has 10 hours of downtime because no one’s working and no one’s going to school, we’re more likely to catch someone online and then hit them up so I can head over to their town and sell some fruit.”
She likes that there is always something new for her to do whether it is unlocking something new or talking to new villagers. She said that everything is very peaceful and nothing is ever wrong.
“It is very easy to escape into Animal Crossing,” she said.