Animal Crossing: New Horizons Staff Explain How They Keep The Series Fresh

Animal Crossing on Switch is a huge hit, and members of the game's development staff have outlined how they keep changing the series over time.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been an extraordinary success on Switch, selling 22.4 million copies since its release in March, and the game's broad appeal was not by accident. During a presentation at Japan’s Computer Entertainment Developers Conference, which was viewed by Japanese site 4Gamer and translated by Video Games Chronicle, the game's director Aya Kyogoku went deep on the series' success, and who New Horizons has appealed to so far.

Kyogoku said that a series like Animal Crossing "cannot be sustained without change"--while the Animal Crossing games maintain similar gameplay between releases, there are a lot of changes that long-time fans will recognize. "Games are entertainment, so you will definitely get tired of making the same things," Kyogoku said. "In order for the series to continue to exist as an IP and for many people to enjoy it for a long time, it is important to continue to challenge and change with the times."

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For New Horizons, she says, the main change was that players can get goals and achievements that change across their playtime, with the Nook Miles system giving more clear goals early on.

Hisashi Nogami, the series' head producer, was also involved in the presentation. He said that the New Horizons player base doesn't have a clear split between male and female players, and that many players are in their 20s and 30s. "What would the public imagine if they were asked what kind of game Animal Crossing is," he asked. "I think there is probably an image of 'a game where you can live leisurely with cute animals’ and ‘a game for young girls...However, looking at the gender and age data of Animal Crossing users, it is clear that the ratio of males and females is half and there are many users in their 20s and 30s."

This will likely not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the hype around the game--even Danny Trejo loves it. Nogami says that many younger players have likely not gotten the game yet because it has not been available over a holiday period yet, when children are more likely to receive the game as a present.

A second presentation, focused on New Horizons' art, also happened. Art director Kouji Takahashi discussed the game's art, saying that fish and buys were rendered realistically so that players could inspect them closely and enjoy them. Certain other elements, like trees and plants, are rendered in a more cartoony way, because going too realistic would make the picture on the screen too busy, and when that happens "the player becomes passive."

Takahashi talks about the importances of the "imaginary gap," whereby the image sparks player's imaginations. "If artists are able to symbolize memories and images, each interpretation will be applied to the ‘imaginary gap’ and infinite value will be created," he says.

If you're on the hunt for new bugs and fish in September across New Horizons, here's what to look for.

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