It’s hard to imagine what the state of the Nintendo Switch would look like right now if 2020 hadn’t been so horrible. What could have been one of the hardware’s more stagnant years turned into one of its most memorable, when the soothing escapism of Animal Crossing met a world desperately in need of a soothing escape.
2019 was a very good year for the Switch. There was a constant stream of excellent first-party games, along with a robust amount of indie support. In the fall the hybrid console got a non-hybrid model in the Switch Lite, lowering the barrier of entry for new players with a less-expensive, portable-only way to play the same games. The year ended with the Switch in a good place, but without a lot of notable games on deck for 2020. Aside from re-release of Wii U RPG Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and the remastered version of Xenoblade Chronicles, the only big first-party game on the horizon was Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Animal Crossing launched on March 20, seven days after President Trump declared a national emergency due to the threat of covid-19. As people around the world locked themselves indoors and cut themselves off from loved ones in order to shelter from the pandemic, along comes a video game about going outside, making friends, and hanging out. Animal Crossing: New Horizons became a worldwide sensation.