Animal Crossing: A Happy Video Game For Millenials And Gen Zs

Animal Crossing

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Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing: A Happy Video Game For Millenials And Gen Zs

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The latest Animal Crossing video game has sold more than 22 million copies all over the world since its release in March. 

With people forced to stay home and find ways to be entertained due to the pandemic, the demand for Nintendo Switch was at a high and Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) instantly became a best seller. 

Eight months later, the video game has won the top honour at the 2020 Japan Game Awards and it is in the top three in countries like Spain and the United States.

Why is this game so popular? 

This is a question many ask – mainly those who have never played it.

The premise of the game is small-town living. In ACNH, your character arrives on an island and has to transform it into a nice place with neighbours (animal characters). You have to grow trees and flowers, fish, catch bugs, and find fossils to donate to the museum. 

Your neighbours and other special visitors can ask you for things to do and you then earn stars as a rating for the island. But it doesn’t really matter if you don’t make these things, or if it takes you five months or five minutes to achieve them. There are no bad guys; no deadlines either. 

In a New York Times article, the author described how Animal Crossing was a “miniature escape” for those isolated by the pandemic and labelled it a “balm” for the “rushing tonnage of real-world news.” 

Most players are in their 20s and 30s who have likely played past entries, according to Nintendo, and over 40 per cent of players are female. In other words, Animal Crossing represents a vision for better times for millennials and Gen Zs.

Animal Crossing New Horizons
Animal Crossing New Horizons

This is not the first Animal Crossing but it is definitely the most successful of the series that first started in the early 2000s. Not only because the graphics, sales numbers and awards say so, but especially because of how it has gone beyond the screen. 

ACNH is only available for Nintendo Switch but now you can find its adorable characters in ads for different brands as part of awareness campaigns in Japan. It has even made its way into the political campaigns in the US. 

Companies and governments have found a new way of approaching millennials.

Animal Crossing For Valentino, The Getty Museums and Others

There’s a surprisingly large number of artists and brands experimenting with and creating content using Animal Crossing considering it has been out for less than a year. 

While we’re all anxious to return to life pre-COVID, for now, we’re still on hold. That’s why luxury brands like Marc Jacobs and Valentino decided to use ACNH to showcase their new collections. 

The innovative concept of using the game as a fashion film set helped them connect with their customers and fans and, more importantly, with those who were also players of the Nintendo title. 

Both brands shared design codes so players could wear new Marc Jacobs and Valentino pieces in the game. 

They weren’t selling clothes in Animal Crossing and the designs were free; this was the start of a new way of advertising.

Museums and other entertainment and cultural establishments that had remained closed during these times also decided to dive into the Animal Crossing world. Monterrey Bay Aquarium and the Getty Museum did it: the Getty created Animal Crossing Art Generator by Getty that allows players to decorate their island with famous art and transform their house into a world-class art gallery. This was based on the open-source tool Animal Crossing Pattern Tool.

How Animal Crossing is changing storytelling in 2020

Like Valentino and Marc Jacobs, Venus by Gillette launched in August the Skinclusive Summer Fashion Line on ACNH to “represent all kinds of skins in the game”. 

It is a collection of 264 design codes that offer vitiligo, freckles, acne, cellulite, wrinkles, prosthesis, and many other characteristics, in different skin tones “for players who want to replicate the look of their IRL skin within the game”.

The Gillette Venus took a step further and merged their Animal Crossing collaboration campaign with a strong campaign on social media, mainly through Instagram and but also with a special online livestream event on Youtube.

They got YouTuber Linh Truong to give one of her popular island tours with Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Star of Netflix’s Never Have I Ever, and the designer of the Skinclusive Summer Fashion Line, Nicole Cuddihy.

Although these initiatives with design codes can be more interesting for players, there are also other aspects of Animal Crossing’s world that are worth a mention: IKEA Taiwan recreated a number of pages of its 2021 catalogue using characters and items from the game. You see it on their Facebook Page.

Rather than just another video game, Animal Crossing is now considered a pop culture phenomenon that emerged during the pandemic. 

Young influencers give island tours on YouTube, recreate scenes from movies, and share them online. Actor Elijah Wood is a fan, and political phenom Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez interacted with her social media followers by making “house calls” to their islands.

If you’ve always wanted to have your own TV show but aren’t sure about being in front of a camera, do like screenwriter Gary Whitta and host a late-night talk show at your house in Animal Crossing.

The game is not everyone’s cup of tea but so far it is interesting to see how it can develop new creative solutions to communicate in different platforms. Creating this type of content takes time but it’s a low cost – not to mention undeniably cute – alternative that appeals to a large young audience.

Some experts point out that the game is becoming a paradise for brands, especially in the US and some countries in Asia, and a risk for them would be if Animal Crossing becomes saturated with too many promotional actions. Moreover, if brand actions compromise the authenticity of the game, it might drive people away. 

We’ll have to wait to see how this develops in a couple of months. For now, it remains a very entertaining and lucrative way of marketing to the millennials and Gen Zs across different platforms.

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