Animal Crossing: New Horizons is apparently going to be part farming sim starting November 5. The most recent Nintendo Direct showcased a slew of upcoming features that are brand-new to the franchise, including the ability to grow crops and use them in recipes. It’s quite adorable, actually, and it’s not unprecedented. Animal Crossing: New Horizons introduced the pumpkin gameplay element last fall, allowing players to grow the squash on their islands by watering them. After four days of growth, the harvested pumpkins can then be used for DIY recipes, but once those have been exhausted, some choose to leave them be in the garden for aesthetic purposes.
Still, players can’t help but wonder why this is a necessary feature. Of course, it does add some cute cottagecore customization to islands, and a variety of food DIY recipes will also look cute in Animal Crossing. But in terms of functionality, it’s arguably not essential. Stamina isn’t a major factor in Animal Crossing; New Horizons introduced the concept of fruit health, which allows players to break rocks and dig up entire trees. But otherwise, it’s not all that important. In this way, it seems like it might be simply trying to pull players away from its cozy competition, Stardew Valley.
Stardew Valley vs. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
In recent years, there’s been a trend in the industry called “cozy games,” and it’s almost becoming a genre. There’s a long list of titles that people might think of when they hear the term, especially indies like A Short Hike, Cozy Grove, and Spiritfarer, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley often make the top of the list because of their popularity.
And in regards to popularity, consumers can observe the two going head-to-head in a couple of different ways. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has sold double the copies Stardew Valley has at over 30 million units, despite the latter being out for four more years than the former, and Animal Crossing also has a much higher concurrent player count month-to-month. However, the longevity of each game could be compared to the concepts of trends versus fads. Most games will dip in concurrent player counts a month or so after launch, but Stardew Valley hit a new player count record last December, so it’s not just a fad the way Animal Crossing: New Horizons might have been thanks to mandatory shelter-at-home ordinances.
This means that Stardew Valley has successfully both kept veteran players interested and garnered the recognition of new fans at the same time. Because lots of gamers who dabble with Stardew Valley also enjoy Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it means their attention is being diverted away from Nintendo’s hit life sim and toward the indie farming sim. Perhaps Nintendo thought an easy way to compete with this was to add farming into its own game.
Animal Crossing Won’t Steal Stardew Valley’s Players
Stardew Valley is as popular as it is not just because it’s cozy and relaxing because, oftentimes, it isn’t relaxing at all. The farmer has less than 13 minutes each in-game day to water crops, give their animals TLC, collect their products, speak to their crush, and then decide how they’d like to spend the rest of their day and stamina. Most of the time, that boils down to what’s left to finish at the Community Center. And players will push their days until as close to 2 AM as possible because they just really need to find a Fire Quartz in the Mines so they can finish a pesky bundle. It’s not just about how “cozy” Stardew Valley is, but rather how addicting its task management system can be.
Yes, Animal Crossing will surely bring back some players who have forgotten about it thanks to all of the new updates. But farming is one of the smallest elements announced during the Nintendo Direct. At the end of the day, farming isn’t the reason most fans will return to the game, and many players out there will continue to invest their time in Stardew Valley for the same reason people still play Skyrim ten years later: how much sheer content there is. Even if the New Horizons 2.0 update has a lot to deliver, it still can’t compete with how many tasks, quests, and secrets there are in Stardew Valley, not to mention what’s possible thanks to mods.