Nintendo has finally given Animal Crossing fans what they want. During a Nintendo Direct in September 2018, the company announced (via a short teaser trailer) that Animal Crossing is coming to the Nintendo Switch sometime in 2019.
Unfortunately, however, that news was overturned when Nintendo's Yoshiaki Koizumi announced that the game would be delayed until March 20, 2020 during the company's E3 2019 Nintendo Direct presentation.
While the Nintendo Direct and Koizumi brought us some disappointing news at the show, they also brought us our first look at actual gameplay, plus some needed story details of what we're doing on the island and why.
Bringing Animal Crossing to the Switch will entice fans old and new, plus we think the game is a perfect match for Nintendo’s hybrid console. Animal Crossing’s sandbox nature makes it ideally suited to long play sessions on your TV, as well as shorter on-the-go bursts on the Switch’s handheld mode.
Here's what we know so far about Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
[Update: Nintendo has released a new gameplay trailer for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It's five minutes of idyllic island life and you can watch it below in our trailers section.]
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The latest addition to the Animal Crossing series
- When can I play it? March 20, 2020
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch
Animal Crossing: New Horizons release date
Both a huge disappointment for fans and a huge relief for those working on the game, Nintendo recently announced that New Horizons will be available on March 20, 2020. We'll likely hear more about the game later this year, probably around September and October when Nintendo drops its next Nintendo Direct.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons trailers
September 2019 brought a brand new gameplay trailer which gives us a better idea of what we can expect from life on the island between crafting, decorating and shopping.
While it doesn't hold a lot of information, the game's first trailer was shown off back in September of 2018 – promising a late 2019 release date that we now know won't happen. Still, it serves as a nice introduction to the game and one of its most illustrious characters, Tom Nook.
The arguably much more important trailer came to us during E3 2019, when Nintendo dropped a slew of new details about the game. Based on the trailer we know that crafting will now play a major role in the game, and subtle tweaks like being able to place furniture anywhere on the island will really help make everyone's home base look different from one another – a huge step in the right direction for a franchise that can come off as a bit too vanilla.
Check out the E3 2019 trailer below:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons news and rumors
In a September 2019 gameplay trailer we got a look at Nook Miles, the game's new currency which will sit alongside Bells. You can earn Nook Miles by doing tasks around the island and you can then exchange them for things like recipes and items, though what the full range of things you can get with Nook Miles isn't confirmed just yet.
In an interview with IGN, the Animal Crossing development team confirmed that there will be both local and online multiplayer elements in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In local multiplayer, up to four players will be able to play together on an island, each using a single Joy-Con. Players will all appear on one screen rather than a split-screen set up.
On online multiplayer, things get bigger as up to eight players will be able to play on the one island. As far as talking to one another goes, Animal Crossing will be compatible with the Nintendo Switch Online app.
Animal Crossing will support an autosave feature, meaning there's no longer any need to fear Mr. Resetti coming after you when you accidentally reset the game without saving.
A neat feature for Animal Crossing fans living in the southern hemisphere was revealed during the Nintendo E3 Treehouse livestream: region setting! Yes, in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players will be able to set the region they're living in, meaning that the seasons in-game will actually reflect those you're experiencing in real life.
We never thought we'd say this, but crafting will play a major role in the next Animal Crossing game. Shown off in the New Horizons trailer up above, we see the villager collecting sticks, woods and stones over to Tom Nook's crafting bench to create new items like axes and, assumedly, fishing poles. Without a shop setup on the island, we assume this is the way we'll get new furniture and tools in-game.
While it's not necessarily as in-depth as the farming system seen in Harvest Moon or the indie darling Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing does have a minor farming mechanic going on. In the trailer we can see the villager harvesting plant petals from around a tree, which we assume are either used as crafting materials or used to plant more flowers around the island.
Expanding the home
One of the key gameplay mechanics in Animal Crossing is building up your abode – something we'll continue to see in New Horizons. First thing you'll have to do when you get to the island is setup your tent. Similar games in the franchise have started in this way, but it looks like you'll be keeping the tent for a longer period of time in New Horizons.
Nintendo officially announced Animal Crossing for the Switch during a Nintendo Direct in September, 2018.
In January 2018 it was revealed that Nintendo had applied for a new Animal Crossing trademark in Japan for a wide range of purposes, including software for a home video game machine, portable electronic game machine, and smartphone devices. Now, we already have the smartphone device application in the form of Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, but we’ve yet to see the portable and home game machines. A Nintendo Switch release will tick both of those boxes.
As well as this, the trademark also covers stuffed animals, game machine controllers, board games, playing cards, protective carrying cases, and trading card games, so it’s clear that Nintendo still has big plans for the series.
It’s been a long time since the last mainline release
The last mainline Animal Crossing release was New Leaf all the way back in 2012. That’s now seven years ago and, given before this the usual release gap for mainline titles was around three to five years, we’re inclined to say we’re due a new game.
What’s also interesting is that the Wii U never received a mainline title (no, Amiibo Festival absolutely does not count) despite the fact that many fans expected to see one. It’s possible that Nintendo started work on an Animal Crossing Wii U or settled on waiting to launch one for the Switch.
The success of previous releases
Previous DS and 3DS Animal Crossing releases have sold extremely well for Nintendo – both Wild World and New Leaf each surpassed 11 million sales. While there is the caveat that previous home console releases for GameCube and Wii haven’t done nearly as well, we’re inclined to say that the Switch will buck the trend here thanks to its hybrid nature, and Nintendo will have a hit on its hands.
Given one of Nintendo’s most staunchly handheld titles, Pokemon, is now confirmed to be coming to the Switch, we don’t think it’s likely the company will keep Animal Crossing languishing on the 3DS for much longer.
What we want to see from Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Wider, more dynamic, cast
We love our Animal Crossing neighbors, but there’s no denying that they can become somewhat samey. It's a problem that’s not helped by repetitive interactions. We’d love to see a new Animal Crossing introduce even more new faces to the neighborhood and perhaps include a few more ways to get to know them. Seeing more dialogue and more well-rounded personalities would make us very happy players.
Decorating in Animal Crossing is one of the biggest and best parts of the series (just look at Happy Home Designer for evidence of that). But, we’d like to see even more pieces of furniture appear in a new game. New styles and themes would be welcome, perhaps with more customization options.
Bigger spaces or more areas
With the power the Switch offers, we think we could get the biggest and most expansive Animal Crossing ever. Although we love that Animal Crossing is all about being in a small town, we also enjoyed the move towards a city vibe that came with New Leaf. In Animal Crossing on Switch we wouldn’t like to take this a lot further, but it’d be nice to see some new areas or districts in town that offered a few more amenities or places to visit.
More chances to craft your own story
Moving into the mayoral role was one of the best aspects of New Leaf, but we’d like to see something a little different in the next installment. Perhaps more choice in what role you play in the town. Pocketcamp allows players to take up the role of a holiday camp owner, so perhaps in a new mainline game we could see a few more career options.
Of course, for those interested in continuing along the mayor route that would still be there, but it’d also be exciting to see shopkeeper or cafe owner paths open up. Creating your own designs or crafting furniture to sell to the locals, or collecting ingredients from your town and others to add some interesting flavors to your cafe menu – all of these sound like enjoyable pursuits in an Animal Crossing world.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp was a welcome release after we hadn’t seen anything from the series in a while, but it doesn’t scratch the itch quite enough for us due to its shallowness. However, that doesn’t mean we’d like to see the mobile game abandoned entirely when a mainline release launches.
It’d actually be nice if Nintendo managed to tie the mobile and console releases together in some way so that players can get more depth out of the mobile game, and give us another way to enjoy the console release. Whether that’s unlocking and transferring items, earning money or improving relationships, we’d just like a way to keep playing even on days where we can’t carry our Switch. Now that we've seen it's possible with Pokemon Let's Go, our hopes are even higher.