Animal Crossing: New Horizons has had its major version 2.0 update, which includes a bunch of freebies and also the paid DLC option of Happy Home Paradise. A number of Team NL have been enjoying its charms, and a topic that kept coming up was the new content's ability to bring back lapsed players. It's also brought back daily play for some, which would have ended a good while ago for a number of islanders.

So, two of our team that have been buried in the game over the last week - Tom Whitehead & Kate Gray - gathered at The Roost for a virtual cuppa to talk about the update, DLC, and why time travel is a dangerous game to play.

We start off with confessions over how much we'd 'lapsed' from the game pre-update.

A nice cuppa
Image: Nintendo Life

Kate Gray: For me, it’s been at least a year since I played regularly, pre-update. I think I tried to hop in last autumn to grab pumpkins, but even that didn’t last long. I played VORACIOUSLY for the first two months, though!

Tom Whitehead: In my case I never lapsed, but how I played changed a lot. During various lockdowns and isolations it became a little meeting place with my Mum as a replacement for actual visits; it was a social thing where we’d sell turnips, exchange unused recipes etc. But over the last year I’d maybe play for 10 minutes a day, which would consist of checking turnip prices and dashing around to check on my villagers. I still found pleasure in chatting with my quirky animal buddies, but it had stopped being a ‘game’, in a sense.

New mechanics, like cooking and farming, have revitalised the game for me.

KG: You must be absolutely rolling in it, then. I had about 15 million Bells in my account from my time in the turnip market, and I’m already down to about 10 million. This update is expensive.

TW: I was too wimpy in the turnip market, I should have made more!

KG: I went hard. I was in about three different ACNH Discords, which meant there would always be somewhere to sell… even if the profit was tiny. Now, I dread the thought of going back to those Discords! I haven’t posted in there for a year. I feel a bit like the person who only supports a football team when they’re doing well.

TW: Well, that’s Nintendo’s fault though, maybe. There was a chance to do more meaningful regular updates, but after about 6-8 months they dried up. What have you thought of the update ‘strategy’, especially now that so much was clearly held back for this version 2.0?

KG: I have mixed feelings, to be honest — I don’t necessarily agree that we should feel entitled to a live-service game that gets updated with massive hauls of content, but at the same time, this is the first thing that’s actually brought me back to the game. I wasn’t too fussed about all the limited-time, seasonal stuff, because it was just one or two things here and there. New mechanics, like cooking and farming, have revitalised the game for me (and the DLC, obviously) but it is weird that it took this long, because I think Nintendo garnered a lot of bad press from the disgruntled fans. I’m happy, at least — but it’s just odd that it happened so late.

TW: Yeah, I feel that a chance for amazing momentum was maybe lost. But, on the positive side, it feels like a renewed game now. It’s no longer a thing I do out of habit, and pleasingly the new stuff is so darn charming. Starting with the free content, I think it makes the whole thing so much more rounded and varied. Each day can be a bit different now. What do you think of the freebies in particular?

Image: Nintendo Life

KG: I think it’s absolutely astounding how much free content there is. It almost makes me wonder if it is actually better to dump it all in one go, so there’s lots to keep people busy, rather than piecing it out over months and everyone constantly being hungry for more than just scraps. There was already so much of the game I hadn’t seen, and now the utter depth of it is really, really exciting — I think the worst thing to happen in a game like this is realising that you’ve reached the bottom of the barrel, as it were.

TW: For sure, I’d definitely run out of things to do. I like your point about the benefit of doing so much in one almighty update. Outside of the #content approach of time travelling and all that, I’m fine with having various things I haven’t got to yet. I have a plan for a farm but haven’t set it up yet, I’ve only gone on a couple of Kappn’ trips. There’s genuine choice every day, now it feels like a brilliant entry in the series.

Outside of the #content approach of time travelling and all that, I’m fine with having various things I haven’t got to yet. I have a plan for a farm but haven’t set it up yet, I’ve only gone on a couple of Kappn’ trips.

KG: I think I’ve also learned a lot by how I played in the first few months, which is to say… irresponsibly! I wanted to be the one who had the new stuff, so I could invite friends over and share in the excitement. But it burned me out very, very hard, and that’s not what I want from a game like this. This time, I’m not only taking it slower — one Happy Home Paradise design a day, and sometimes not even that — but I’m not engaging with as much #ACNH social media. It can get really stressful, or even competitive, to see other people doing so much when you’re racing to keep up. I’ve noticed it this time, too! Some people already somehow have ALL the new furniture. I’ve never time travelled, and I don’t plan to — but this time around, I also don’t plan to ask other friends to give me all the furniture I’m missing. I can wait for Froggy Chair.

TW: Yeah, each to their own, but this isn’t a speedrunning game! I prefer a slow and steady approach, that's the vibe I want from it. You mentioned the DLC, and that’s one thing I’m playing slightly quicker than I would normally so I can do a little review of it. I like it a lot though, so far, it seems to integrate perfectly with the main game and it’s a nice take on Happy Home Designer on 3DS. It’s too darn cute, too. It’s just gaming that makes me smile.

KG: I’ll admit, as one of the ten people that played Happy Home Designer, I’m glad that it’s getting its moment. It never quite felt like a full game, but more of a proof of concept — in fact, I don’t doubt that it was a testing ground for… something. I like that they’ve fleshed out the story a little, but it’s funny, because it is almost exactly the same game! I find myself looking at people’s reactions to it and thinking, “this isn’t new”, but I suppose that’s what Animal Crossing is like for people who haven’t played the old games. To be clear, I think that’s lovely.

Baseball AC
Image: Nintendo Life

TW: Once I learned about taking a villager there for a design (just give them chocolates) that was particularly fun. That said, I’m not sure how possible it is to ‘fail’ in it, or even get a lukewarm response. So far all my clients have been bloomin’ delighted with my efforts, and I’m self aware enough to know that my design skills aren’t all that!

KG: From a game dev perspective, it’s interesting — subjectivity is not possible in a game, so whenever a game requires you to draw (like Chicory: A Colorful Tale or Art Academy) or write (like Kind Words) there’s no way of really determining if it’s “good”, because that requires humanity and sentience. You can only really teach the game to determine if it meets requirements, hence why you get some furniture to start off with. And yeah, that means you can purposefully make an ugly house (I had some houses in Happy Home Designer that were awful, awful things) and still “win”, but I think it really provides you with the impetus to do a good job just because. I think that’s really cool!

TW: Absolutely, I’m always trying to make a nice house just because the game motivates me to do so. That’s always been a strength of AC though, the character designs and scripts are always top notch.

Overall, I feel like Animal Crossing 2.0 is really fantastic now, and I think it’ll be a good while before I’m ‘done’ with it. Heck, I’ll likely go to The Roost for a morning coffee until the end of time.

KG: I missed Brewster. And Kapp’n. More than I realised! I’m legitimately delighted by how much it’s pulled me back in, and how much it feels like the first month again. Good on ya, Nintendo.

TW: So, how long do you predict AC will be a daily / regular game for you now? Like I said earlier, it never stopped in my case but I was past ‘playing’ it.

KG: It’s always weird with these things when it’s your job — and it wasn’t my job when it came out, too! But I’m having a lot of fun taking screenshots, and that’s a good sign of how much I’m enjoying a game, because screenshots are a pain. I’d like to keep playing until at least the end of the year, because actually… Animal Crossing is a much better cosy game than it is a Spring/Summer game. Plus, I have new friends now, and that means new gift opportunities!

Give him your money
Image: Nintendo Life

TW: Nice! I think even in the unlikely event of ‘seeing everything’, the extra choices for the day to day and how entertaining they are will keep me going for a good while yet. I can’t think of anything that’s now ‘missing’, apart from an option to work in The Roost! But I’ll live without it. Is there anything else this game is still missing, or is it pretty much the complete AC?

KG: Weirdly, the one thing I’m most disappointed about is the fact that catching crickets doesn’t give me a recipe for crickets. I want to eat crickets. But on a similar topic, I don’t know how many recipes there will be, and I am pre-emptively worried that there aren’t that many — and with no new free updates, that’s it. In terms of bigger missing content… I never really cared too much about characters like Gracie and Booker, so I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got. Maybe some new new characters would have been nice, but I’m okay with returning ones, too! How about you?

TW: Nothing springs to mind. I think it was one of your articles mentioned that K.K. should do gigs in The Roost, that would have been neat. A hybrid of the old disco days with his new acoustic act. But ultimately, I think the game is in an excellent state now. Do you have a final thought to share on the updates?

KG: I think, more than anything, I have a message for the readers and players: take it slow. You don’t have to unlock everything as fast as other people. Play it until you’re having fun, and then call it an evening. It’ll last longer that way!

Let us know what you think of Animal Crossing: New Horizons version 2.0, and what's your favourite new feature?

Further Reading: