The creators of Animal Crossing see the game as more than just a cheerful life simulator, they consider it a communication tool, where players share experiences with in-game characters and other real-life players.
That may be why the producer and co-director of the series latest entry see Animal Crossing as a good fit for Nintendo's plans to complement its traditional games with smaller — sometimes promotional — smartphone and mobile experiences.
In an interview with Animal Crossing producer Katsuya Eguchi and Animal Crossing: New Leaf co-director Aya Kyogoku, we discussed the future of the franchise, including smartphone interactivity, the series' future on home consoles and keeping the experience fresh.
When we asked how well suited Animal Crossing might be for smartphones, Eguchi said that it's a commonly asked question, but that the franchise isn't a perfect fit for touchscreen-only devices.
"Actually a lot of people have the same sort of idea, but contrary to what it seems like, there's a lot to do in Animal Crossing," Eguchi said. "It's really focused on a very free style of control. Whether it's the buttons or the stick on the 3DS, we really use [the hardware] to its fullest to get the maximum amount of joy, so I personally don't agree with the sentiment [that Animal Crossing would work on mobile devices].
"if we were to create an Animal Crossing for a home console, I think we would really have to invent a new style that's suitable for the platform"
"At at the same time, we don't want to force a player to be tied down to a Nintendo device," he added. "The game is really enjoyable for people across gender and all ages, so I feel if we were to be able to do something that supports playing on a Nintendo device, something that relates to the information content of the game, something that brings players back to the main game, if it's something that can work as a catalyst to get players back into the game, it's something we might look into."
Animal Crossing: New Leaf does take advantage of mobile and social network interactivity currently, Kyogoku pointed out: The Isabelle Twitter account and the ease with which players can share screenshots online complements the Nintendo 3DS game experience. That's something the developers may explore further in the future.
"To have reminders, to have people remember there's something going on in the world of Animal Crossing, is something I think is great," Kyogoku said. "Things like Twitter and Animal Crossing work really well together. If it's something that users will be able to enjoy together along with a Nintendo system, it's something I would like to look into."
Today’s the day! Find Jingle this evening and lend him a hand handing out gifts! He might give you a reward! ;) pic.twitter.com/IBe2dlqsBy— Isabelle (@animalcrossing) December 24, 2013
During Kyogoku's talk at last week's Game Developers Conference, she stressed how important it was for Nintendo EAD to return to the core of Animal Crossing's gameplay and shed long-held traditions established by previous entries. It's a philosophy that extends not just to Animal Crossing, but to Nintendo's other franchises, she said.
"No matter what the franchise is if you want to have it grow, it's important that it doesn't do the same thing over and over again," Kyogoku said. "It leads to fatigue. As a franchise I think everybody at Nintendo is trying to think what we can do to make these franchises grow and continue, and what changes are necessary for that. [Super Mario producer] Mr. Koizumi's team, I think, is trying to do the same as well."
Eguchi said the same rethinking would apply should Animal Crossing return to consoles like Nintendo's Wii U.
"The current gameplay style of Animal Crossing is best suited for a portable device," Eguchi said, "but if we were to create an Animal Crossing for a home console, I think we would really have to invent a new style that's suitable for the platform. The environment in which the player is playing the game is very important, so we need to think that through before we start creating something like that.
"We might not have been able to do that for Wii," he said, "but whether it's the Wii U or a future hardware, it's important to think about what environment the player will be in."