The reception of Animal Crossing: New Horizons has arguably exceeded the lofty expectations of even the most discerning fans, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Millions of people are enjoying the game around the world and there’s been an outpouring of love for it across social media. It’s been a big topic in our conversations with family since release and a welcome distraction with COVID-19 dominating news channels across the globe.
That’s not to say reaction to the game has been universally positive, though, and there is one particular decision Nintendo made for this Switch entry that’s still a sticking point for many gamers; namely, the fact that you can only have one island per Switch. That isn’t one island per copy of the game, mind; that’s one island forever (more-or-less) tied to your console, regardless of how many copies of the game you buy.
The ‘One Switch, One Island’ policy was perplexing from the beginning. Nintendo added same-console multiplayer to the game which enables up to four players to run around the island together with one taking the ‘leader’ role, but the limitations while playing this way quickly become clear after the initial novelty wears off. The fun of playing Animal Crossing has always been customisation and the ability to personalise everything about your village. Few other games cater to the whims of an individual quite like this one, and in some ways having to share feels like it goes against the game’s design.
In New Horizons, progress is locked to the primary resident – the Resident Representative that names the island and kicks things off – with other Switch users living on the same landmass having to share resources. You’re getting a diet version of the full-fat experience reserved for the main player, and while it’s still fun to catch bugs and fish, you’re missing out on a lot.
It’s unsurprising, then, that people are looking to invest in second consoles for their family members and loved ones. In Japan there’s been a swift uptick in the number of consoles sold, and that’s understandable given the quality and wide appeal of the game (it debuted at Number 1 in the UK charts, too). This writer used it as an opportunity to upgrade to a Switch with better battery life while doing a family member a solid and selling them our impeccably maintained ‘old’ Switch at a great price. Everyone’s a winner, not least Nintendo.
We imagine that we weren’t the only ones with family investing in the system just for Animal Crossing. In fact, that same relative is thinking that they may now need a second console for someone else living under the same roof, a person whose experience with gaming begins and ends with Animal Crossing: New Leaf on 3DS. It’s highly likely that their household—which previously had zero Switches—will have two before long. Say what you like about the policy, but from a business perspective Nintendo certainly knows what it’s doing with ‘One Switch, One Island’.
The simple fact is that the game is good enough to make a new console a sound value proposition and investment. Played a little (or a lot) every day, Animal Crossing can last for years as the seasons change and things cycle in and out. From that perspective, £250 for a Switch Lite and a copy of the game is an excellent deal. £500 for two Switch Lites and two copies of the game may well seem steep, but for those with the disposable cash it still offers great value and lets two people have the full and ‘proper’ Animal Crossing experience. After all, nobody wants human neighbours in Animal Crossing, do they? That makes things far too real.
Despite being an unpopular decision, it doesn’t appear to be stopping people from going out and buying another Switch, plus another copy of the game for the family. New Horizons has had an excellent start in sales terms in the week since release, but we’re very interested to see how the game affects Switch sales over the coming weeks and months, especially seeing as Nintendo’s first-party output for the rest of 2020 remains largely unknown beyond the Xenoblade Chronicles remaster. Switch has a stellar line up of system-selling software already, but New Horizons appears to be encouraging a wave of more casual gamers to put down money three years after the console launched.
Our impression of the game’s positive effect on Switch console sales is largely anecdotal at this stage, though, and we’d like to see how many Nintendo Life readers have also bought a second Switch for their household primarily due to Nook and co. Feel free to answer the poll questions and let us know how many of you are now living with two (or more!) Nintendo Switches under one roof.
How many Switches have you got in your household? Go ahead, feel free to make us jealous in the comments below.