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The creators of Animal Crossing hope New Horizons can be ‘an escape’ in difficult times

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‘It’s the kind of game you want to enjoy with other people’

Video games have become a powerful coping tool as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. Developers are making their games free or cheap, Pokémon Go was made easier to play indoors, and Twitch is skyrocketing in popularity. Animal Crossing: New Horizons seems almost ideally suited for this scenario.

It’s a game where players can live a relaxed life in the outdoors, and safely meet up with friends online. It’s cute and charming, and the desperate circumstances have made the anticipation around an already popular game even greater. A cursory glance at Twitter reveals fans begging Nintendo to release New Horizons early or counting down the days until it comes out. It’s not a situation Nintendo could’ve planned for, but the game’s creators are hoping the new game can help players in some way.

“We’ve been planning this release for quite some time, so it’s unfortunate that this timing overlapped with what’s currently happening in the world,” New Horizons producer Hisashi Nogami tells The Verge. “I am very disheartened and saddened by the events happening across the world. Considering the timing, we hope that a lot of the Animal Crossing fans will use this as an escape, so they can enjoy themselves during this difficult time.”

One element that should help with this is New Horizons’ simultaneous global release. 2012’s New Leaf, for instance, launched in Japan several months before the rest of the world, so there was some disconnect between regions. But with virtually everyone on the planet currently impacted by the pandemic in some form, New Horizons director Aya Kyogoku says that a simultaneous release is particularly important now.

“It’s the kind of game you want to enjoy with other people, and talk about it, and share the experience with your friends and family,” she says. “So I think that a global, simultaneous release is a really good approach for the franchise.”

Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches on March 20th on the Nintendo Switch. Stay tuned for more from our interview with Kyogoku and Nogami later this week.