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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

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."