Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on March 20, 2020, a little over a week after the majority of the world went into lockdown in their own homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While long-time fans of the game had already been eagerly anticipating its release, extended time inside prompted many others, including myself, to give the Nintendo Switch game a try. It quickly became wildly popular and a great source of entertainment in the unprecedented early days of the pandemic. Not only did the game foster a sense of community, allowing players to chat with cheerful villagers, it also let them connect with friends to play online during their time apart.
However, a problem quickly arose — Animal Crossing: New Horizons only takes about three to four weeks to complete. The island’s leader, Tom Nook, only had so many tasks for players to take on when the game was first released. After players collected enough materials to build three facilities (Nook’s Cranny, the Able Sisters’ Tailor Shop and a campsite), recruited 10 adorable villagers to populate their islands and beautified the island with furniture, fencing and flowers, they earned an intimate concert from K.K. Slider (a musician who has appeared in all Animal Crossing games to date). The credits for the game role throughout K.K.’s performance, and afterward Tom Nook stops by to thank players for all of their help to make his idea a success.
Once these tasks were finished, there wasn’t much left for players to do. Sure, they could terraform their island and alter the structure of the land to perfection, but some opt to leave their town as is. There is also the option to complete the museum, finding each fossil, fish, insect and art piece. However, spending the day continually hitting one button to cast a fishing line, swing a net or dig at a marked spot isn’t exactly a thrilling challenge. Fans missed having a goal to accomplish. Without one, Animal Crossing: New Horizons lost its intrigue after just a couple of months.
Minimal updates were released periodically but they did little to pique players’ interests. Most of them were holiday-themed, mainly centered around the collection of one seasonal item to create new furniture pieces for the game. Fans openly expressed their distaste for these additions, particularly surrounding the unwanted appearance of Zipper, the creepy Easter Bunny. The lack of substantial updates drove many players away, leaving deserted island dwellers, well, deserted.
Devoted fans of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and its previous iterations held out hope that the game would improve. Many of them made their wishes for game improvements clear on social media and by far, the most widely requested update was the addition of Brewster, a beloved café owner who previously appeared in games spanning the franchise’s history. For over a year, there was no word on whether or not he would be making any kind of appearance, but on Sept. 23, Nintendo Switch Direct finally teased his long-awaited arrival, placing his coffee shop inside the island’s museum. The Nintendo Switch Direct also announced a separate Animal Crossing: New Horizons Direct on Oct. 15 with more details.
Many fans rejoiced at this news while others questioned why this had taken so long. Others prepared themselves for disappointment, remembering the lackluster seasonal updates. I found myself wondering if Brewster alone would be enough to lure distant players back to the game. However, the jam-packed Animal Crossing: New Horizons Direct would put all these queries to rest.
The 23-minute-long Direct announced Version 2.0 of the game — an extensive update bound to motivate players to dust off their Switches and reunite with their villager friends. It exceeded people’s expectations, promising many additions that fans had been hoping for, such as the ability to grow vegetables, cook meals and plan hangouts with their villager neighbors. There will also be lots of new furniture items added to the game, as well as numerous customization options for already existing pieces.
As for character-related updates, on top of grabbing a cup of coffee at Brewster’s café, players will also have the opportunity to travel to mysterious islands alongside Kapp’n, another favorite character from earlier versions of the game. Once there, they can gather new materials for their home islands. Fans can also interact with familiar characters like Tortimer, Cyrus and Katrina if they use the airport to travel to Harv’s Island, where they will be tasked with gathering supplies to build a plaza hosting more shops they can visit. These unexpected additions bring back a challenge to the game after nearly 18 months, much to the delight of loyal fans.
“I’m not going to lie, with this direct I was really careful on making bold predictions or hopes, because I wasn’t sure if they would add all the content that is coming to the game,” tweeted ACPocketNews, an Animal Crossing update account. “My expectations were really low, but I’m glad they were because a lot of amazing stuff is coming.”
The same day as the Direct, Nintendo also announced a paid DLC (downloadable content) for the game called Happy Home Paradise. In this add-on, players can get a job with the Happy Home Academy. When a player wants to work, they can travel to an archipelago via the airport to help villagers design their ideal vacation homes.
Players can take the design skills they acquire from the Happy Home Paradise DLC, such as designing pillars and adding soundscapes, and employ them on their home islands to modify their villagers’ homes as well as their own. They will also be able to purchase exclusive furniture items with the Poki currency they earn as payment. This vast and expansive DLC will surely draw players back into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, giving them new goals to work toward achieving.
The reactions to the update were overwhelmingly positive online. “I keep replaying this direct. I LOVED this game initially but like everyone I became so burnt out. BUT I also knew the charm of this game had enough to it that the potential for it to be so much better was there, and Nintendo absolutely delivered all of that,” wrote a YouTube commenter, encapsulating what many fans were feeling.
We don’t know whether or not the update and the DLC will actually live up to the hype until they each release on Nov. 5, but it’s safe to say that Animal Crossing: New Horizons finally listened to what their fanbase wanted, and based on the responses, it has paid off. While this will be the game’s “last major free update,” Nintendo’s fan service-inspired Version 2.0 will likely keep everyone entertained beyond a four-week period.