How Animal Crossing: New Horizons became a Digital Advertising Space

May 28, 2020

by Philip Sy

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the global order for social distancing has caused many to become physically detached from the outside world, to say the least. With multiple areas in the Philippines enduring the third month of enhanced community quarantine, Filipinos have already started feeling the mental and psychological effects of the global health crisis as early as its onset.

That is why people have turned to various forms of coping mechanisms that they hope will relieve them of their anxieties. Among them is Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH), the fifth installment to Nintendo’s famed social simulation video game series released last March 20.

First launched in 2001 on the Nintendo 64 and the Gamecube, the Animal Crossing series simulates true to life scenarios in real time and lets players interact with animals as though they were human. But what makes the game even closer to real life is that it does not have a clear endpoint, mimicking the motions of day-to-day living.

Unlike previous titles, New Horizons allows one to explore a personalizable deserted island. New features ranging from being able to craft recipes with materials, reshaping the physical form of your island, to customizing your character and furniture have attracted various players. 

In ACNH, players can choose the structure of their island. Source: Animal Crossing: New Horizons Walkthrough Team (Game8.co)

Aside from that, players can now visit other users’ islands in real time and share their clothing designs on the platform.

After the release of New Horizons, people instantly migrated to the world of Animal Crossing. According to CNN, Nintendo has sold five million copies of the program in March, “making it the highest-selling title for any console in a single month.” The technology company also crowned ACNH as its third most successful launch. 

The rise of ACNH in the time of COVID-19

New Horizon’s success has been easily seen as a result of the health crisis. After all, the online platform has become a perfect distraction for those seeking an escape from the anxieties surrounding the global situation.

Different aspects of the game have helped users cope with the struggles brought about by the pandemic. These include players receiving Do-It-Yourself (DIY) recipes for their villagers to learn, and buying items from the island shop. In that sense, ACNH reflects the varying activities people do to pass time during the lockdown.  

Though they have reached insurmountable recognition for creating Animal Crossing, Nintendo continually one-ups itself by promising patrons updates connected to unconventional holidays such as Bunny Day and International Museum Day. 

Friends wearing Bunny Day clothing. Source: Lianne Ong (Facebook); Karina See’s Island

As players do not see an end to the content that the Japanese corporation will bring them, it’s safe to say that many will still be patronizing the game for more years to come.

Strengthening social bonds through Animal Crossing 

The game has been successful in connecting and reconnecting friends, family, and strangers through its encouragement of trading non-endemic fruit, visiting islands, and sharing of codes for clothes, among many other things. 

Source: @helloacnh (Twitter) Chloe Ponce’s island
Friends celebrating a Birthday. Source: Caitlin Ng (Facebook) Caitlin Ng’s Island

But Animal Crossing differs from competing multiplayer programs because most of its features are randomly generated. That is why it may be hard to find items and gameplays that other users have come across.

As such, players have joined forces on Facebook, Reddit, and Youtube to help each other out. These efforts have created a variety of communities that Nintendo games have been successful in forming throughout the years. 

A Facebook group about Animal Crossing villager trades has accumulated 10.4k worldwide members in under 2 months. Source: Facebook.com
A megathread has been posted on a Reddit forum dedicated to giving Animal Crossing enthusiasts in-game pointers. Source: birdwithbrow (Reddit.com)

Animal Crossing: A Rising Advertising Platform

Amassing millions of users, Animal Crossing has become a place for multiple brands and organizations to promote their products and services during the COVID-19 global outbreak. Take the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York as an example. They gave free QR codes to their online art collection for players to download and display on their islands. 

On the other hand, Ayala Museum Philippines and Sentosa Island Singapore have offered in-game tours of their exhibit-inspired and resort-inspired islands, respectively. Brands like Highsnobiety and 100 Thieves similarly decided to market their products by letting players download and wear them for free. This happened after many ACNH users started creating imitations of Gucci and Louis Vuitton clothes in the digital community. 

Ayala Museum designer Bea gives players a virtual tour of painter Juan Luna’s art collection. Source: Bea Cupin (Rappler.com) 
Le Méridien Singapore Sentosa’s Onsen Suit featured on ACNH. Source: Sentosa (Sentosa.com.sg) 
Highsnobiety clothing worn by ACNH characters. Source: Jian De Leon (Highsnobiety.com) 
100 Thieves’ 2018 collection on ACNH. Source: Jeff Yeung (Hypebeast.com) 

Although New Horizons can only advertise art and design-centric labels, Animal Crossing has opened itself up to a world of opportunities and its large user base is a testament to this.

The game has not only reeled in corporations and individuals through its unique user experience but also encouraged people to live in the moment. At a time when young consumers prioritize experiences over possessions, Animal Crossing: New Horizon has successfully delivered what their target market wants.

Without a doubt, Nintendo has successfully adapted to the international health crisis and shown the public a glimpse of what the future of advertising and marketing could look like post-COVID-19.   


Sources:

ABS-CBN News. (2020, May 22). Ayala museum mounts exhibit in ‘animal crossing’ game. ABS-CBN News. Retrieved from https://news.abs-cbn.com/life/05/22/20/ayala-museum-mounts-exhibit-in-animal-crossing-game

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Walkthrough Team. (2020). How to Choose the Best Island Layout | ACNH – Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch). Retrieved from https://game8.co/games/Animal-Crossing-New-Horizons/archives/282680

Animal Crossing New Horizons Villager Trades. (2020, April 6). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/groups/3006358122740294

birdwithbrow. (2020, May 26). [WEEKLY MEGATHREAD] New Horizons Q&A/Tips – Ask away! Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/r/AnimalCrossing/comments/gr1m9z/weekly_megathread_new_horizons_qatips_ask_away/

Cupin, B. (2020, May 22). While on lockdown, Ayala Museum goes online – and on Animal Crossing. Retrieved from https://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/arts-and-culture/261642-ayala-museum-online-animal-crossing

De Leon, J. (2020, April 8). The Animal Crossing Fashion Archive Is a Quarantine Lifeline. Retrieved from https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/animal-crossing-fashion-archive-interview/ 

Grubb, J. (2020, April 21). March 2020 NPD: Animal crossing powers march to blockbuster game sales. Games. Retrieved from https://venturebeat.com/2020/04/21/march-2020-npd-animal-crossing-powers-march-to-blockbuster-game-sales/

Stewart, A. (Reporter). (2020). ‘Animal crossing: new horizons’ sets sales record. CNN. [Youtube]. Available from https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2020/05/07/animal-crossing-new-horizons-nintendo-stewart-pkg-vpx.cnn

The Editorial Team. (2020, April). Own a van gogh … in animal crossing, with the met’s new share tool. Collection Insights. Retrieved from https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/collection-insights/2020/animal-crossing-new-horizons-qr-code

Welcome to a virtual sentosa. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sentosa.com.sg/en/campaigns/virtualsentosa

Yeung, J. (2020, April 7). 100 Thieves Drop Entire Apparel Collection on ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’. Retrieved from https://hypebeast.com/2020/4/100-thieves-animal-crossing-full-apparel-collection-release-info

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