Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s big 2.0 update and paid DLC, Happy Home Paradise, have been out now for over two weeks. Players have had time to absorb at least some of the new content; we’ve been unearthing gyroids, having coffee, listening to Kapp’n sing, designing dream vacation homes for villagers, and so much more. There’s so much in the update, not to mention the DLC, that it begs a question. Should Nintendo have updated the game with all of this content more regularly over time, or was saving it for one big blowout the better choice?
Between the release of the game, in March of 2020, and early 2021, the game received semi-regular updates, on a paced rollout. The slow drip eventually came to a halt, but now the spigot has poured out so much to do, all at once. Undoubtedly, at least some of the content we just received, and particularly the DLC, may have only been finished recently. It’s naive to assume that Nintendo could have just magically given us everything in the update sooner. Clearly, though, a lot of it was planned from the beginning. This is evidenced by the pier where Kapp’n docks, the inclusion of gyroids in the Nook Miles program, and more. It’s easy to assume that at least some of the material in the 2.0 update was finished much earlier and held for simultaneous release with the DLC.
If Nintendo had decided to trickle out some of the content from this update more slowly, it could have kept players more engaged with the game over time. Anecdotally, I know many people dropped off from the game around the end of 2020 and early 2021, when it stopped receiving regular updates. Ending the regular updates and holding it for a big release could mean some players never get to experience these new additions. Gamers can be fickle, and once they’ve abandoned a game or moved on to a different title, they may not be willing to come back. A number of the items in the update, like gyroids and The Roost, are series staples that felt like glaring omissions. It might have been more satisfying to see these aspects of the game come sooner. A slow drip feed of this content might have been preferable in keeping people invested in the game over the long haul.
On the other hand, by holding back on all of these updates, Nintendo has once again created a big cultural moment with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Players are returning at the same time and the game is back in people’s minds and hands. Many players, myself included, still have plenty to explore from the update and the DLC, and are back to playing this game regularly after setting it down. If this content had come out more slowly, each little trickle might not have felt like enough to pull people back in. One could justify not picking the game up for a small addition, but when it’s a slew of new and interesting content, it’s a bigger draw.
I believe Nintendo made the right move by deciding to make one big final push on the game, rather than giving us smaller updates along the way. The strategy of smaller, more regular updates worked in the beginning, but at some point players began to leave. This huge update is bringing many fans back. We’ll likely never know, but I’m guessing Nintendo paid attention to sales numbers and active player numbers and decided it made more sense to have one large update to give everyone all the missing content, all at once.
What do you think? Would you have preferred more regular updates throughout 2021? Or do you like everything coming at once? Share your thoughts below in the comments, or let us know on the Boss Rush Discord.