The Animal Crossing games are meant to be relaxing and stress-reducing. Whether it succeeds is up for personal interpretation, but generally speaking, every entry into the franchise works to be a little kinder and gentler than the last. The games encourage players to coexist with nature, build relationships with the locals, and experience Animal Crossing at their own pace.
So why is it then that the franchise has such a long history of punishing players who take a break from the game? And moreover, why is Nintendo itself now getting involved in players’ Animal Crossing hiatus? Many lapsed Animal Crossing: New Horizons players have reported that they’ve received emails from Nintendo stating that their islands have missed them—which totally isn’t a guilt-trip or anything, nope!
The emails come ahead of New Horizon’s just-announced fall update, which Nintendo is naturally eager to have players try. But the consensus from players who’ve dropped New Horizons is that this email reminder is just way too much. This goes beyond coming back to towns and islands overrun with weeds, roaches running wild in their houses, and disgruntled villagers, which long-time players have come to expect from the Animal Crossing franchise.
It used to be that a long hiatus could result in even more punitive measures than what players are seeing now. In the older games, players who were away for long enough might come back to find a rafflesia—otherwise known as the corpse flower—growing somewhere in their town. The rafflesia couldn’t be removed with tools. Instead, players had to run around the area and pluck every weed within a certain radius to make the rafflesia wilt and disappear.
Then there were the villagers; in older games, players might come back to find that their most favorite villagers have moved out with only a letter to remember them by. Villagers that didn’t move out were extremely shocked to see you again, and if you were unlucky enough to also have a rafflesia somewhere in the vicinity, they’d complain nonstop about how nasty the town was. It’s enough to make anyone turn off their console and leave Animal Crossing for another day… week… month.
Compared to that, New Horizons has made returning after a long hiatus significantly painless. The emails from Nintendo, however, are a whole new kind of annoyance. Most folks are probably used to promotional emails, but receiving a reminder from Nintendo about their poor, abandoned islands feels like unnecessary salt in the wound.
Maybe it would hurt less if Animal Crossing were a different franchise, but coming from a game that has taken measures to be even more player-friendly than previous titles, getting corporate emails not only feels excessive, it also stinks of hypocrisy and breaks Animal Crossing’s immersive appeal. What’s the point of playing a game about relaxing at a tropical island if the corporation behind the curtain sends out emails reminding players to pick up the game again?
Taking care of animal villagers is a fun game, not a full-time job. Nintendo would do well not to cross those lines again.
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