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This Nintendo Game is the Latest Branding Tool

Since its release this past March, the outstanding success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons has not gone unnoticed by other industries. From Cracker Barrel to Ally Bank, various organizations are using New Horizons to reach younger audiences.

If you've never heard of it, Animal Crossing is a video game series that began when its self-titled debut was released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2001. In every mainline entry, players control a human "villager" that befriends cute anthropomorphic townspeople. In addition to customizing and upgrading their in-game home, players partake in a variety of activities such as fishing, catching bugs, and buying new outfits for their villager - a formula that has largely gone unchanged throughout the years.

A villager's kitchen and living room in the game.

As one of the only kids in my childhood friend group who owned this never-before-seen life simulator when it was first released, I’ve come to know its trademark quirkiness well. To this day, some of my male friends ask what the point of the game is. Where is the blood and gore? How do you beat it?

Though the game can't be beaten per se, success is measured by the friendships you form with your co-habitants, paying off your home’s mortgage, and receiving rewards from the “Happy Home Academy.” Refreshingly simple gameplay has helped millions of players cope with COVID-related anxieties these past few months.

But how does the fifth sequel of this weird, formerly obscure interior design game from my childhood tie into public relations?

For starters, the latest entry is the most popular yet. With 26 million copies sold, New Horizons is one of this year’s bestselling games.

Customization is deeper than ever before. Players can customize anything from the color of the lamp shade in the corner of their virtual bedroom to the type of fencing they want surrounding their neighbors’ houses. Hundreds of new items and decorative themes allow for a greater range of self-expression which is exactly what organizations need to communicate their message effectively.

Thirdly, New Horizons’ Wi-Fi compatibility lets players visit and explore each other’s villages online with the “Dream Code” feature. Uploading a village and sharing the 16-digit code allows members of Nintendo's paid online subscription to visit your village. Thankfully, using a Dream Code prevents visitors from pocketing items that aren’t theirs or messing with the owner’s hard work.

Nintendo has released no shortage of Fall content for northern hemisphere players. This month, mushrooms and mushroom-related DIY recipes were added. In October, players dressed up their villagers and decorated for Halloween. With four months to go before its one-year anniversary, New Horizons still has room for more seasonal content to be added. Organizations, take notice.

This blog post was written by Matthew Robinson, Digital Committee Member.

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