Mar 26, 2020 - Technology

Animal Crossing emerges as the game for the coronavirus era

Photo: Nintendo

Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released in the U.S. last week, has quickly emerged as a runaway hit pastime for a population trapped in their homes.

The big picture: Success in the video game industry often requires not only a great story and gameplay, but perfect timing. Nintendo's cartoonish simulation game, which allows players to create their own island getaways, appears to have pulled off all three.

Driving the news: New Horizons sold close to 2 million physical copies in just the first three days in Japan after a smash debut in the U.K. It's already a hit in the U.S. as well, where it retails for $60 as either a physical game card or download.

How it works:

  • Players create and shape their characters and islands, and can then garden, fish, decorate, hunt for bugs and fossils and get to know their surroundings. What happens on the island is also influenced by the real-world time and season.
  • Once players finish building their retreat, they can share it, and other players can visit.
  • Unlike in past Nintendo games, players don't have to choose a gender, and can apply any clothes and style to any character. "Society is shifting to valuing a lot of people's different identities," producer Aya Kyogoku told the Washington Post. "We basically wanted to create a game where users didn't really have to think about gender or if they wanted to think about gender, they're also able to."

Of note: New Horizons, the fifth title in the main series, only runs on the Nintendo Switch.

  • The game — as well as the shelter-at-home rules that have left so many people with time on their hands — has sent sales of the Switch soaring, with the console out of stock in many places.

What people are doing in Animal Crossing:

My thought bubble: This may not be the game for all time, but it is the game for right now — a mirror image of the summer of 2016, when Pokemon Go got everyone out of their houses to hunt creatures. Now, we're all cooped up, imagining we're free to roam our own desert isles.

Go deeper: This video gives a really good feel for the game and how it works.

Meanwhile: The new Animal Crossing isn't the only game with a big debut amid the pandemic. Doom Eternal, the latest title in the Doom franchise, which aims at hardcore shooter players, has also had a huge launch.

Go deeper

NFL players' union approves new labor agreement with 17-game season

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

After months of negotiations, a narrow majority of players voted to approve a new 10-year labor deal that will shape the NFL over the next decade.

Why it matters: The new collective bargaining agreement will allow the NFL to expand its regular season from 16 to 17 games as early as 2021 and expand the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams starting this season.

Go deeperArrowMar 16, 2020 - Sports

How sports media is handling the coronavirus outage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the Era of No Sports, media publications, TV networks and leagues are scrambling to find alternatives to fill the void — and in some cases, redeploying staff to work on non-sports coverage.

Driving the news: The Washington Post has redirected some of its sports staff to help with non-sports coverage and, starting this Saturday, the newspaper's daily Sports section will move inside the Style section, per an internal memo (Sunday Sports will continue to stand on its own).

Go deeperArrowMar 19, 2020 - Sports

Coronavirus travel bans could strand foreign athletes in U.S. sports leagues

Data: Axios reporting; Chart: Axios Visuals

American sports leagues have become increasingly global over the last couple decades, which is inarguably a boon to business and fans alike.

Why it matters: The global nature of American professional sports represents our shrinking world, increased diversity and the melting pot of cultures that this country was built on, but right now, as with everything else, it's hard not to look at this through the lens of the coronavirus.

Go deeperArrowMar 20, 2020 - Sports