If you follow us on twitter you may have noticed that our Editor-At-Large, Jon Wahlgren, has in his enviable, clammy hands an English-language digital copy of Nintendo’s newest quaint life sim, Animal Crossing: New Leaf. In fact, a few dozen people have received early copies — not only the usual menagerie of gaming press faces but YouTubers and other prominent internet peeps — as part of a social media campaign that Nintendo is running to get people excited for the game’s release.
You may be wondering why Nintendo Life is participating: that’s a valid question, and one we want to be open with our readers about.
As part of the gaming media, Nintendo Life and its authors often have access to early copies of games for review. Some review copies come from PR companies as a part of the usual review cycle, others from indies who think that our readers would be interested in their title. With bigger companies, like Nintendo, there are often certain embargoes that come with review copies, such as not talking about what happens after a certain point in the game or a certain character’s motivations (which usually means something crazy happens afterwards).
It’s important to note that Nintendo Life is not obligated by anyone to review a game just because they sent us a copy, and we’d like to stress that our staff has never accepted payment from an entity other than Nintendo Life to do any sort of coverage at all. As you may be aware, Nintendo Life staffers aren’t actually paid at all – we’re masochists that way.
That isn’t to say that we only cover games of which we have received review copies. You can see at the bottom of every review whether a copy was provided and by whom, and in cases where that information isn’t provided it means that author purchased a copy themselves with their own cash.
So, from our perspective, receiving a game early is not out of the ordinary, and with Animal Crossing: New Leaf being as sprawling a game as it is it would be absolutely necessary to spend a great deal of time with it beforehand to have any semblance of an accurate assessment of its qualities — even if it meant a “late” review, which loyal readers of the site know can happen from time to time. As Nintendo tends to deliver review copies weeks before a game’s ship date, we would’ve most likely had access to Animal Crossing: New Leaf around now (or soon) anyway.
Nintendo’s PR company approached us last week to see if we were interested in participating in the program, and our editorial team talked it over and decided that we would likely have received an early copy anyway, but in this case we’re largely free of these embargoes and can pretty much talk about whatever we want until the game is released. That can be pretty rare, so it seemed like a good opportunity to cover the game in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t until after it shipped.
In order to keep Nintendo’s ad campaign separate from our normal, planned review coverage, Jon won’t be reviewing the game — that duty will fall to someone else on literally the other side of planet Earth — and what he’ll do won’t even pretend to be objective. It will be his experiences with the game told from his perspective. Heck, it might not even make a lot of sense. Sometimes he doesn’t, but we put up with him anyway.
Hopefully this clarifies why we’re taking part in what Nintendo obviously intends as an ad campaign, and we hope that you enjoy whatever dumb coverage we cook up for it. We greatly value the trust that you, dear readers, put in Nintendo Life to not lead you astray, and that’s why we felt the need to explain our involvement in this. We hope to do right by you with these Animal Crossing shenanigans.
Every week Jon will do a round-up on Nintendo Life of what’s going on in the unfortunately named town of Trash, and how he’s breaking the spirits of its citizens by randomly hitting them over the head with a butterfly catcher, and then we’ll have another staffer lay down the review law before the game's released. If you want to hear something specific about it, just ask and we’ll get our guy on the job. Of course, that is if he can tear himself away from playing with the sweet Blue Falcon in his tent. That wasn’t clever innuendo.