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New Animal Crossing rules prohibit Joe Biden’s island

He won the election, but lost New Horizons

screenshot of Joe Biden’s Animal Crossing avatar on a streetscape including an ice cream truck and campaign signs Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Biden-Harris 2020

Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ popularity has inspired people to use the lifestyle simulator in all sorts of novel ways, like becoming a marketing tool for businesses and organizations. So on Wednesday night, along with the game’s big winter update, Nintendo released some new guidelines for organizations riding the game’s success.

There are things you might expect — you can’t, for instance, make anything that could be considered offensive or vulgar. Rules like these, Nintendo says, are meant to “preserve the experience for the millions of people enjoying the Game recreationally.”

And then there’s this:

Please also refrain from bringing politics into the Game.

Curiously, the new content guidelines also say that you cannot use Animal Crossing “as a marketing platform that directs people to activities or campaigns outside the game (including directing people to a sales page, distributing coupons, sweepstakes, giveaways, requiring consumers to follow social network services accounts, gathering customers’ information, or other invitational activities).”

Polygon reached out to Nintendo for clarification, but based on the most straightforward reading of these rules, things like using Animal Crossing for a political campaign that encourages people to go out and vote — as Joe Biden’s campaign did earlier in the year — are no longer allowed. Groups that break these rules, Nintendo says, might be asked to stop disseminating their content, if not be outright prohibited from “future business usage of the Game.” Given that Joe Biden has already won the election, some of these consequences might be moot.

Still, Polygon has reached out to Joe Biden’s team to see if Nintendo has gotten in contact over the new rules. For now, Biden’s island Dream Address is still active — we were able to visit as of Wednesday night.

Joe Biden, of course, isn’t the only person to have used Animal Crossing as a marketing tool, or even as a vehicle for politics. Previously, the game has been embraced by Chinese players to stage in-game protests, used as a virtual meeting place for Black Lives Matter rallies, and utilized by politicians like U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to make “house calls.” Under the new rules, some of these things may no longer be allowed — at least, if you’re representing a business, organization, or group.

Well, unless you have Nintendo’s blessing. The rules also say, “Any business use of the Game that exceeds the rules set forth herein shall be permitted only with the separate and express, written permission of Nintendo.”

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