The 2020 presidential election has come to "Animal Crossing."
The Animal Crossing franchise is known for its cute and cathartic gameplay, adorable characters and amazing home décor possibilities, and most recently—promoting Joe Biden's presidential campaign with the new option for villagers to represent the Democratic vote with Biden campaign signs.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a 2020 life simulation video game created by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. It's the fifth main series title within the Animal Crossing series. New Horizons was released in all regions on March 20, 2020 and became an instant hit during the pandemic.
Starting this month, Nintendo is enabling villagers to decorate their homes with Democratic décor. With the pandemic moving the polls online and most people stuck at home, the Biden campaign isn't about to pass up the opportunity to appeal to the millions of at-home gamers who represent potential votes.
This move is incredibly strategic, considering Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the fastest selling game in Nintendo history. Nintendo shared that it "made net profit of 259 billion yen ($2.4 billion) in the fiscal year ending in March, up 33% from the previous year, while net revenue rose 9% to 1.3 trillion yen. In the fourth quarter alone, Nintendo's profits surged threefold."
Thus, there is a large audience of American gamers to reach, as both sales and screen time has swiftly increased since Horizon's release and has remained continually steady. The Biden campaign created four sign designs for players to add to their game. They include the official BidenHarris logo, a Team Joe logo, the "Joe" Pride logo, and a picture of aviator sunglasses with red, white, and blue tinted lenses. Players can download the signs in-game by scanning the QR codes with the Nintendo Switch app.
For some, this may be an odd match, but for many it doesn't seem to matter what their political leanings may be, this is still pretty funny and cute. While there are many dire elements of the pandemic, as well as the presidential election, impacting daily life now, there's something uncharacteristically playful and alleviating about this politicized move.
The beauty of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as well as other Animal Crossing games, is that players can design their own personalized insignias. After all, Trump supporters have been making their own signs all along. There are "MAGA" and "Trump" designs created by gamers that have been circulating since the game's release, so everyone has the opportunity to rep their political party in-game.
Animal Crossing has also introduced villager versions of Biden and Harris. While no Trump villager has actually been created for the game yet, it seems unlikely that the Trump campaign will jump on the trend. Trump campaign deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager scoffed at Biden's Animal Crossing campaign recently, saying "This explains everything: Joe Biden thinks he's campaigning for president of 'Animal Crossing' from his basement," she told CNN.
All mudslinging aside, this truly is a different move for the gaming franchise. Animal Crossing has to done something that many political campaigns have failed to do: It's connected the gaming community to presidential politics.
In several ways, this is a match made in heaven. Animal Crossing is such a diverse gaming community that unites a variety of characters with different backgrounds, socioeconomics, ethnicities, and histories as they work together to make their community the best that it can be.
"Animal Crossing is a dynamic, diverse, and powerful platform that brings communities together from across the world. It is an exciting new opportunity for our campaign to engage and connect Biden-Harris supporters as they build and decorate their islands," Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The Verge.
The truth is: Animal Crossing has always been political. In some Animal Crossing games, villagers can become mayors and work on town projects, as they consider the needs and wants of their citizens. From its in-game politics that are established through its framing of capitalism, environmentalism, agriculture, working class identity, interpersonal relationships, town renovations, and dialect to the customizable artistic designs, villager catch-phrases, décor and clothing options, it reminds viewers that the possibilities of community building are unlimited.
Only time will tell if these new in-game campaign signs will bring more people to the online polls in November, or if Biden is just shouting into the adorable Animal Crossing: New Horizons void. Either way, it's time for villagers to grab their shovels and dig into the conversation.