In March of 2020, I eagerly sat down in front of my TV to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) on Nintendo Switch (if you don’t know anything about Animal Crossing, here’s a helpful video). It couldn’t have come at a better time; using this game as a virtual getaway during the pandemic, I eventually logged well over 200 hours. I wasn’t new to Animal Crossing at the time, I’d been playing ever since it was first released on the Nintendo GameCube. Before ACNH, I was a heavy player of the mobile version of Animal Crossing, called Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. When ACNH was released, I cast aside the mobile version and eagerly dedicated my time to building up my island on Switch. A year later, after experiencing all of the in-game holiday events and collecting all of the furniture I wanted, I found my mind wandering back to Pocket Camp.
Why would I return to a fairly basic, somewhat-two-dimensional mobile game after experiencing the beautifully-designed and exciting open-world counterpart? While there are many pros and cons for each version of the game, for me, it comes down to the amount of time developers put into updates and overall experience of the mobile app.
Once I had played through ACNH for a year, there were no surprises. I knew all of the characters, I had participated in all of the holiday events, and I decorated my island comprehensively and to a point where I was happy with it. I was bored. Pocket Camp, however, seemed to have constant updates from developers, more holiday events, better furniture, and a lot more characters to interact with.
So why would it seem to me that Nintendo spends all that time updating and developing a mobile game, instead of focusing that energy on their latest-and-greatest Animal Crossing game yet? Does Nintendo place a higher value on mobile games vs. console games? What does Nintendo plan to do about mobile games in the future? These are the questions I’m left wondering.
One thing of note is that with ACNH, gamers pay a one-time fee to access the game and any updates from developers are free to download to your Switch console. With Pocket Camp, the game is free to play but there are a ton of paid features, like subscriptions for added benefits, and the ability to purchase more currency or better items in the game itself. According to an article by AppTrigger, Nintendo was planning to give up mobile games and made an announcement that they were stepping back from the mobile market in June 2020. However, another article by Screenrant says Nintendo isn’t stepping back from mobile after all. “Gamesindustry.biz reports that Nintendo spends quite a bit of its annual report discussing its mobile business, referring to it as one of the “target areas” in expanding the use of their IP [intellectual property] past their core business.”
In my opinion, I imagine Nintendo is reluctant to pass up the opportunity for pushing games to mobile and using them to increase revenue. Projections for digital video game revenue in the United States steadily increases through 2025, according to Statista. In 2025, the expected revenue for mobile games is projected to be almost 30 million dollars. That’s not accounting for what it’s expected to be in Japan, which is where Nintendo sees most of its success in the mobile gaming industry ($581 million, 54% of its overall mobile game revenue in 2020).
It’s obvious to me that Nintendo was thorough in the development of ACNH, more so than a simpler mobile game. However, as an avid player, it feels like more care is put into Pocket Camp to keep users playing and keep them spending money. I hope to see more updates to ACNH in the future, otherwise I believe Nintendo will see a major decrease in New Horizons gameplay.