Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Everything we learned from the Nintendo Direct

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is coming out in a month, and as is Nintendo tradition at this point, they held a Direct showing off all sorts of new features for this new title. You might have thought that this was Animal Crossing with an island survival coat of paint, but really it’s much more. In actuality, you are building an entire Animal Crossing world from scratch! Let’s go over the massive info dump before you set out on your deserted island getaway.

The beginning

You’ll arrive at an airport at your deserted island of choice and, of course, you are in debt to Tom Nook for the ticket price. Whoops. The island itself is the first interesting new feature of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Each island is procedurally generated and you actually get to choose from a selection of islands when you start your game.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a seasons system that keeps the season in-game congruent with the season in real life. Before the game starts you choose whether you live in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere to determine which season corresponds to which months on the calendar. January will be winter in the northern hemisphere, for example, but summer in the southern hemisphere.

Each season will make different activities available to you. Spring will make flowers and cherry blossoms bloom. It’s also a great time for picking fresh fruit. Summer brings a wide variety of bugs as well as summertime leisure activities like fishing, swimming, and wearing short shorts. Autumn allows you to collect seeds, mushrooms, leaves, and other harvest crops. Finally, in Winter you’ll be able to play in the snow, build snowmen, and wear cozy winter clothes. You might even be able to see the aurora borealis.


When you arrive on the island you will be given your very own tent which you can place basically wherever on the island you want. Other residents will also ask you to place their tents, essentially allowing you to create the layout of your first island town. You’ll be given some basic supplies and services from good ol’ Tom Nook including a radio, a lantern, and a cot. You gotta start somewhere.

As the town grows you will determine where other residents will place their homes. You will also determine where new shops and services will open. You essentially get to build an entire town from the ground up.


The game starts with two facilities in the center of town. The first is resident services which doubles as a shop (where you can both buy and sell items) and a crafting bench for rudimentary supplies. You won’t just buy items in New Horizons you’ll craft them from raw materials that you harvest. Resident services will also give you tips on what to do on the island, if you are ever stuck for a goal. Eventually the resident services building will grow into a town hall, which will allow you to customize and relocate buildings in your town.

As your island grows, new facilities will open including shops, museums, aquariums, tailors, and a recreational campsite. Yes, it’s a little strange that you can build a campsite when you begin your life in a tent. Just keep in mind that these new facilities will only open once your island has turned into a bustling town.


You can make a lot of items in Animal Crossing: New Horizons from tools, to furniture, to outdoor decorations. In fact, you will be outfitting the entire island with your creations. If the island has a bench, it’s because you made it. If there is a lamp post, it’s because you made it. You will eventually be able to customize your creations with color schemes and patterns as well. Of course, you will eventually craft new crafting areas, like items or crafting benches, to make higher level items.


The airport is your connection to other players’ islands and the hub for New Horizons’ multiplayer. You can invite players to your island via local wireless or the internet, and you can fly to other players islands as well. Eight people can be on an island as well. You can also use the airport to send messages to other players. You can connect up with your friends either by using your friends list or by exchanging one time Dodo Codes. When visiting friends and having friends visit you, tools that can alter the map, like axes, are disabled unless you list said friends as trusted “best friends.”

The Nook Phone

Everyone will be given their very own Nook Phone with several important features including a camera and map. There is also a rescue service which will pick you up and bring you back to your house, should you get lost or find yourself stuck in an area you can’t get out of. The Nook Phone will also give you quick access to activities such as crafting.

Nook Miles

Nook Miles are a sort of extra currency in New Horizons. You’ll earn them by completing goals in the Nook Mileage program. These are basically small quests that give you direction in your island life. They consist of things like catching bugs, fishing, visiting other islands, crafting, and much more.

Once you’ve paid off your ticket you can exchange your nook miles for items, mostly aesthetic items, but also some new recipes and even menu items. You can even unlock the ability to quickly change between tools, and even change the game’s U.I. with these items.

Finally, your Nook Miles can be exchanged for Nook Miles Tickets which can ship you off to other remote islands with unique resources to harvest. You can also sometimes find characters on these islands, which you can then invite to your own community.

Island Broadcast

At the start of each day, Tom Nook will make an announcement about what activities are available during that day and a little bit of advice on how to play the game.

Dangerous Creatures

Not everything is friendly on your new island home. You can encounter wasps, scorpions, and other deadly creatures. You can catch and hunt some of these, but if they attack you, you can become sick, injured, or “worse.” You can cure sickness via medicine that you either purchase or craft.


Of course, nighttime activities differ from daytime activities, and you’ll likely want to build several lights and even a campfire. You’ll also see different creatures at night. For example, there is a chance of encountering ghosts after the sun sets. Night will, of course, correspond with actual daylight hours in the real world.


Every so often you’ll come across a castaway washed up on sore. If you stay with them and nurse them back to health you’ll get rewards and they may even join your island community.

Your house

The unrelenting force of capitalism cannot be stopped. When you outgrow your tent you will probably want to build a house. Of course, building a house requires taking out another loan and once again going in debt to Tom Nook. Time to start paying it off!

Houses have a lot more space than tents and come with their own storage space. You can also decorate it however you like, changing the walls and flooring and creating unique furniture. You won’t have to place furniture individually inside your house. Instead you can alter its appearance in an editor mode.

But capitalism does not stop there! You will eventually outgrow this house and so you will have to remodel it and build extensions, getting more room, more individual rooms, more storage, and before you know it you are living in a mansion!

Party play

Up to eight people can share the same island locally. So if you share your Switch with a family, for example, everyone in your family can share the same island. This also means that up to eight players can play the game locally. All characters need to stay on the same screen during local play so one is designated the “leader” for local play. This is the one that the screen follows. Any resources or items that other players come across will be transferred to their own storage at the resident services building.


New Horizons will come with a companion app that you can run on your smartphone via the Nintendo Switch Online App. It’s called NookLink and it will let you send messages, look at your stats, and scan QR codes from games such as Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer to gain customized costumes and items. Of course, there are also third party applications to make these QR codes as well. This will also be a primary method of voice and text chatting with other players.


Sometimes other animals will come to visit your island for purposes other than setting up shack. These can give you hints to quests and unique items, or will act as traveling merchants that can sell you items you can’t get anywhere else.

Free updates

New Horizons will constantly update adding new events and characters to talk to. For example, there will be holiday events, for Easter, Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and much more.


Since your island is procedurally generated, you might not like its layout. Luckily, you can change this. You can add or remove land and water, build bridges, stairs, and ramps to avoid having to use ladders or special traversal items, change terrain types, and generally customize the island to your liking.


The game will suppose Animal Crossing amiibo, allowing you to claim special rewards and invite special characters by scanning them. Not all amiibo will work at launch but instead will be added through content patches later on.


Photopia is a special island you can unlock that will allow you to place characters in different poses in order to take photos.

Save data              

You cannot back up your save data to Nintendo Cloud services, but New Horizons will have its own service for recovering data should your Switch be lost or stolen. This service will go live sometime after launch.

Themed system

A special Animal Crossing themed system will launch on the March 13, prior to the official game release. There will also be a special Animal Crossing themed carrying case which will launch on the same day.

Release Date

Animal Crossing: New Horizons will release for the Nintendo Switch on March 20, 2020.