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What Can We Learn About Agility Through Animal Crossing New Horizons’ Discourse?

The latest instalment of the classic Nintendo franchise, Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was certainly a long-awaited release, with fans of the games having to wait for the newest version to come out for a grand total of eight years, and, of course, the hype for the newest version was immense, selling over 13.41 million copies of the game worldwide within the first six weeks of release.

Compared to its predecessor, New Leaf, New Horizons had a lot to prove, especially after such a significant wait. But, with a grand total of 397 villagers, and players hunting obsessively in order to acquire newly introduced such as the ever-popular Raymond the cat, it was certainly a talking point.

In order to keep the game interesting and appeal to old and new players alike, nostalgia was certainly a seller; managing to keep many of the charms from games past, such as the iconic Tom Nook and his protégées Timmy and Tommy, as well as Abel and Sabel from Abel Sisters, the tailor’s shop, everyone’s favourite insect-fearing owl, Blathers and Nook’s nemesis Redd, the art trader. However, new elements were introduced in order to give a fresh perspective for players, including Dodo Airlines, run by Wilbur and Orville, who now allow travel via Nook Miles Tickets, earned for good deeds and daily tasks on your island, but also travel via online play and local play to other players’ islands.

However, something that has yet to be done significantly, is for the teams behind Animal Crossing: New Horizons, back at Nintendo, is that they are not listening to the constant stream of customer feedback. Many have critiqued this newest game for different reasons, such as not being able to skip the chit chat between your islander and Orville at the airport before embarking on a journey, or the fact that fan-favourite aspects of the game have since become inaccessible, such as the erasing of Brewster and his coffee shop, which was once attached to the museum, or the fact that pelicans such as Pelly and Phyllis are no longer part of the line-up for the game.

Complaints that I have happened upon most, however, relate to the inability to multitask, having to reopen a task again and again to do the same thing, particularly when redeeming Nook Miles Tickets, despite the game being in circulation for a year now, there has been no inclination that a system will be implemented to mean that you don’t have to keep redeeming these tickets one at a time, which becomes extremely tedious when someone is intending to scour the mystery islands, not in search of rare fruits, insects, fish or fauna, but for a new villager to join their island family.

It is interesting that this common complaint is yet to be addressed in favour of creating special events such as Bunny Day, Festivale, Toy Day and May Day. Are Nintendo hoping to keep the younger players in their main target audience better entertained than the people who have been fans of the franchise since childhood? Perhaps. But, what is interested, is that many of these problems could be assessed via agile practice!

Think about it! Feedback comes streaming through social media on a daily basis, of people complaining that even the sturdiest tools crafted inevitably break and then a player has to stop what they’re doing in order to go back and rebuild another tool only for the process to go on and on. Is there a way to change this? How would we do it? Can we pitch some ideas, run it by a focus group? See if they like it? Etc. You could use these various topics of feedback, rank them in terms of priority, as per how many complaints they receive about it, and then, through the use of Kanban and scrum, systematically go through the motions to slowly but surely eradicate each of these commonplace complaints. Can you imagine how much happier the audience of players would be if they noticed that with every game update that takes place, another one of the daily drags of Animal Crossing is being written out of existence!

At the beginning, Nintendo was being praised for providing the islanders with more inclusive hair colours skin tones and styles to use when creating their avatars. Many fans of the franchise had been waiting in anticipation for the release. I am sure you can imagine how elated the production teams had been when they saw how positive the responses had been.

And yet, it wasn’t long until the critiques began to arise. When the game first launched, just a few weeks before Easter 2020, players had a short while to acclimatise to their island lives before being introduced to their first special day, and subsequently, their first special day character: Zipper the rabbit. This yellow rabbit character was roaming the island community, telling the residents about Bunny Day, and he was an inescapable presence for all players, that got a lot of flack online, with memes, reaction videos, and other negative responses being shared, all targeting the exuberant rabbit character. In 2021, having received such a negative response to Zipper, the team at Nintendo changed the way that Bunny Day was introduced, and had Zipper appear on the island once, to inform the player about Bunny Day, and then leave until Easter Sunday, where he celebrated Bunny Day outside town hall. This meant that older players did not feel as bombarded and frustrated by the Bunny Day preparation that had irked them in the lead up to Easter the previous years. And although toning down the presence of one character is different to bringing back Brewster’s café in the basement of the Museum, it was clear that Nintendo had been listening to their players and the feedback they received.

There could be so many amazing changes to improve customer satisfaction. It could be amazing! And, although we cannot know for sure whether Nintendo is doing this, etc. surely it’s worth imagining the changes that could take place!

The Agile Works, based in London, UK, was founded by Arvind Mishra in 2016. We are an up-and-coming training, recruitment and consultancy business with the goal of becoming a household name. We strive to provide you with the tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

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