All About Them Bells
A credible twitter account recently posted that we’re due for another Animal Crossing themed Direct 10/24 at 8 PST. This Isabelle-themed account (New Leaf’s dutiful secretary) had previously been inactive for all of 2017, only to be retweeted by Nintendo of America, confirming the announcement.
— Isabelle (@animalcrossing) October 23, 2017
So what does this mean? Nintendo has promised several mobile projects since Miitomo: a relatively short-lived stab at social media. They delivered on Super Mario Run, and adjusted to common mobile pricing schemes with Fire Emblem Heroes (an excellent mobile entry in the FE domain). Animal Crossing was the last confirmed IP Nintendo would bring to mobile, and it appears we’ll hear more on the project tomorrow. What will we hear? As this is the first insight we’ll get into Animal Crossing mobile, it’s speculation at best. But we can still make educated speculation.
Direct from the Source
Do not expect Switch or 3DS Animal Crossing news. The image is clear: “15-minute Animal Crossing Mobile Direct . . . There will be no updates on any topics including other mobile, Nintendo Switch, or Nintendo 3DS software.” Sorry, but despite being tweeted by an Isabelle-themed account, New Leaf will likely be ignored in these 15 minutes. This is a curious statement. There was some speculation the mobile app would be a companion to a fuller Animal Crossing game, something similar to online shopping. If no Switch entry is announced tangentially (something unlikely with Super Mario Odyssey hitting shelves in a few, short days), then this is a self-contained game. What kind of game will this be?
Deep Dive into the Unknown
I hate to say this, my money’s on loot boxes. Nintendo is quick to learn and adapt to new markets. Super Mario Run was priced as a traditional video game (flat sum up front). This really isn’t how mobile developers price to the mobile market. Instead, it’s all about microtransactions and reward feedback loops. Fire Emblem Heroes does this well.
You need orbs to “purchase” character lottery drops (or “summons”). You run out of “energy” and must stop playing, or shell out real money for potions. While the common gamer likely ignores spending real cash in these “freemium” games, the mobile market has undeniably proven that a slim percentage of the population will spend more than enough to cover the balance. South Park did a pretty good job explaining all this in a recent season.
This is a roundabout way to say Nintendo is smart. They messed up with the steep Mario Run entry fee, but learned and were rewarded through FE Heroes. That means we’re unlikely to see a game with a different pricing model than Heroes. Instead, we’re getting loot boxes. Animal Crossing is the perfect game for it too. It’s a game about collecting furniture and shirts. Do not be surprised when we’re desperately fighting for a legendary sofa in two months.
The dopamine rush of opening presents isn’t enough to structure an entire game, though. That said, the actual game that will be present is unlikely to make splashes. Do not expect a town to explore, KK Slider concerts, or a museum to fill. Instead, think Puzzle League. Something small, easy to do with one hand, and a vehicle for random furniture drops (similar to playing New Leaf’s in-game 3DS). That said, I do have one last optimistic take.
Let’s Get Social
Now is the time! You’ve gotten your legendary tier lamps, now you get to show it off. Animal Crossing mobile would be the perfect outlet to pick up the torch Miitomo dropped. Invite your friends over to the house you’ve meticulously assembled. Share wardrobes, have Puzzle League battles. This is likely going to be the most social mobile Nintendo game to date. We’ve never had a good way to share our Animal Crossing worlds with friends. Yes, you could “dream” yourself into visiting neighbors. But if this will be an always-online experience, social integration seems like a no-brainer for this IP. Only time will tell. These are just educated guesses based on market trends and and company history.