Mar 26, 2020 - Technology

Animal Crossing emerges as the game for the coronavirus era

Ina Fried, author of Login

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

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.