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Animal Crossing got three updates in a week, unusual for Nintendo

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Nintendo games in the age of live services

an Animal Crossing villager wearing a Viking helmet, standing on a beach next to a sandcastle, in Animal Crossing: New Horizons
A villager at the beach in Animal Crossing.
Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out on March 20, and the game’s first patch went live six days later. Since then we’ve gotten two more updates, bringing us to the latest one on Friday, version 1.1.3, which fixed a critical bug where balloons stopped generating after 300 of them were popped. Three updates in about eight days is the type of pace that only games like Fortnite keep up, and not the sort of thing you’d expect from Nintendo.

Most of the New Horizons updates have been fixes, such as eliminating a duplication glitch and undoing an issue where housing plots became unusable. There was, however, one immediate content update, which brought with it the 12-day Bunny Day celebration that gives players an extended scavenger hunt, along with new cherry blossom items.

For comparison’s sake, Pokémon Sword and Shield, another recent first-party Nintendo title, has only gotten two patches since its November release, though raids are set to change periodically. And that’s for a game that can be played competitively, much like Splatoon, Smash Bros., and Mario Kart — that is, multiplayer games that live and die based on support. Animal Crossing is of course a social experience, but what you do on your island has little bearing on what other players experience in their own games. In other words, Animal Crossing is not the type of franchise that you’d think would require constant, ongoing support as a “service game.’

That’s changing, of course. By requiring an internet connection just to participate in upcoming promised seasonal events, and by temporarily leaving out some characters that were tied to certain mechanics, New Horizons is intent on providing an evolving experience that you cannot simply time-travel through. The island you wake up to tomorrow might be slightly different from the one you’re playing on today. More importantly, there’s always something to look forward to.

Nintendo may be infamously slow to take to such industry-standard trends, but if the Japanese company keeps this up, it makes me more excited about Animal Crossing’s potential future as a bustling, lively game. And while it may not be an expected strategy for a title like this, it’s smart, too — with New Horizons breaking sales records across the world, there’s more incentive to make sure players keep coming back for more.