Animal Crossing: Bridging The Divide Between Gamers and Gaming

21 July 2020

Alexandra Tsoi

Have you heard about Animal Crossing?

You must have. Everyone at With definitely has because not only is the Nintendo game making it into major publications like The Financial Times, but it’s also a hot topic for me, personally. I just can’t stop talking about my “Stalk Market” successes!

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the Nintendo DS iteration of the game, Animal Crossing: Wild World. Back in 2005, Tom Nook – who was, at the time, the local shop manager in the game – was teaching me a lot of great life lessons like how to pay off a mortgage (although I definitely thought a mortgage was when you pay the bank money and then they give you a bigger house…) and how the stock market works (although I definitely only ever bought and didn’t grasp the concept of sell). 

However this time round with Animal Crossing: New Horizons Tom Nook and Nintendo have been teaching me a lot about how far gaming has come since I was a child.

Gaming: from lame to fame?

According to Newzoo, the gaming industry is forecast to generate revenues of $159.3bn this year! That’s more than five times bigger than the music industry whose 2019 global revenues came to $20.2bn. Pretty much everyone I know listens to music on the regular. However, not everyone I know plays games on the regular. So the fact that it’s one of the biggest entertainment industries out there is impressive. 

The recent release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons acted as a window into the world of gaming for the general public, for the non-gamers. Ever since it came out in March, it’s been making headlines and taking over conversations. It’s no TikTok with its seemingly daily dose of drama, but for a humble Nintendo game, it has managed to steal a significant portion of the entertainment limelight. So what is it about this game that had everyone so stirred?

Talk about New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is arguably one of the best life simulators out there right now. It’s no open world feat like Red Dead Redemption 2 or the postponed, yet-to-be-released-but-much-awaited Cyberpunk 2077, but the gameplay is engagingly simple and wholesome in its own unique way. It provides a friendly community experience with the occasional event (who can forget those infuriating Easter eggs?), smaller fun tasks and even its own talk show. 

The thing about this game is it’s just so accessible. No matter who you are, this game can offer a non-threatening, exciting and customisable experience for all. This is helping catapult already impressive figures on female gamers (yes, just like the lady in the Animal Crossing ad) and parent gamers (on which see great research recently from Activision Blizzard Media). Animal Crossing has even been noted to have subtle nods to the LGBTQIA+ community with a few characters giving us a glimpse into their personal lives. 

Our favourite research from Activision Blizzard Media which we recently shared on social, explored the LGBTQIA+ community within gaming. Interestingly, the research stated that “simulation and role playing games are the two genres that LGBTQIA gamers enjoy playing more than heterosexual and cisgender gamers”. Kudos to Nintendo for an inclusive gaming experience. 

However we can also see  that the community and customisation of Animal Crossing has allowed not only people to welcome it into their lives, but also brands. 

Brand Experiences In-Game

While gaming influencers are making increasingly big bucks in this new normal world where gaming is centre stage, brands are now able to move past influencer work and can now head straight into the games themselves. One of the ways this game has attracted such brands is through the community aspect of the game. The game allows you to visit friends’ islands, multiple people at a time. On a personal level, this means that I can visit my friends during lockdown without even leaving my sofa! It also means I can benefit from the incredible talent around the world. However, on a brand level, these features open up a world of opportunity. 

Sentosa is a Singaporean leisure and tourism brand. Lockdown measures hit them hard and fast, but they found a new way of connecting with their audience. By hacking the game’s building functions, they managed to create an entirely branded island which they charged people to come and visit via the in-game airline, Dodo Airlines. Immediate revenue. Genius. 

100 Thieves is a premium lifestyle and gaming brand that has won multiple esports major championships, launched the top gaming podcasts on iTunes, and sold out over a dozen apparel drops. Even these guys got involved in Animal Crossing by creating its entire apparel line available in game by taking advantage of the custom design sharing system.

https://twitter.com/ActualIyCasey/status/1244430970926874624?s=20

But what is so incredible about what 100 Thieves did is the sheer scale of the release. With a huge variety of their clothes accessible in-game, all over the world their fans can grab clothes they may not have been able to get IRL. Then the knock on effect of that was that people began posting images of their characters wearing the merch on social media, creating user-generated content to help market the brand. Genius. 

These two very different brands have made it clear that games can be leveraged in unique and engaging ways to different benefitting results. It shows that no matter your industry – whether it be tourism, apparel, or even tech – video games can be used as a route to attract and retain an audience or a cause. Maybe you could host an ingame game show, or talk show and stream it to your audience. Maybe you could hold weekly meetings in game to keep your workforce excited for those necessary check-ins. There are so many ways this game can be, and has been used by businesses and brands, but it still manages to hold onto its simple beginnings. 

Gaming is more than just a game…

Gaming is a way of bringing like minded people together, it’s a stage upon which you can talk about anything and know that someone will relate to you – especially in the tech space. Of course, it’s subjective, but the gaming community that I’m a part of is proud. Proud because the industry is finally getting the respect it deserves, and proud because we’ve all upgraded to the biggest houses possible in Animal Crossing.