New Horizons is the fourth main entry in the Animal Crossing series of life simulation games from Nintendo. The series’ arrival on the Nintendo Switch brings a multitude of new features as well as new environment as players find themselves on a deserted island and are charged with transforming it into a paradise.
New Horizons saw record sales of 13.4 million units sold in the first six weeks of release. Many attributed its success to a dramatic increase in people living under shelter-in-place orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The game received attention from celebrities and became an alternative setting for public events forced to cancel by the pandemic, such as weddings and graduations. In April 2020, Gary Whitta began hosting a talk show within the game on Twitch.
- Character Creation – For the first time in the series, players can manually customize their character rather than taking a quiz that determines their character’s appearance.
- Crafting – First seen in the series with Pocket Camp, villagers can now gather an assortment of materials to be used in creating furniture, clothing, etc. For example, chopping down trees now involves picking up wood that can be used later.
- 8-Player Multiplayer – Up to seven other villagers can join each other in one town.
- Setting Plots – The player can now determine where other villagers’ homes will be placed on the island.
- NookPhone – Tom Nook provides the villager with a phone that comes loaded with different apps that allow for things like taking photos, calling other villagers, maintaining lists of crafting recipes, and more.
- NookMiles – A new type of currency that allows villagers to purchase unique items and recipes from Tom Nook.
- Deserted Islands – Using NookMiles, players can fly to smaller, randomized deserted islands to gather supplies, hunt bugs, go fishing, and potentially meet other villagers to invite back to the main island.
- Roads – Villagers can craft actual roads and trails through their towns rather than laying down custom wallpaper tiles like in past games.
- Tool Wheel – Players can equip and swap their tools (Shovel, Axe, Fishing Rod, etc) via a radial menu rather than going into their full inventory like in past games.
- Outdoor Furniture – Furniture and items can now be placed at will even outside of the villager’s home.
- Hemispheric Seasons – Depending on which hemisphere (north/south) the player is in, the game will reflect the accurate seasons and day/night cycle.
- Rescue Service – Using the Nook Phone, players can fast travel back to their home if they become “lost”.
- NookLink – An extension to the Nintendo Online mobile app that allows players to scan QR codes of designs they made New Leaf or Happy Home Designer, then import them to New Horizons.
Nintendo Switch Console
A special edition version of the Nintendo Switch was created to coincide with the release of New Horizons. In North America and Japan, the console launched on March 13, 2020 (a week prior to the release of the game) for ¥35,960 and $299.99. In Europe, the system was bundled with a digital copy of the game and released on March 20, 2020 for £319.99.