The Darkly Comic Economics of Animal Crossing Pocket Camp

first_img After waiting for most of this year, and the entire lifespan of the Nintendo Switch so far, Nintendo has at long last released its next mobile game: Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. Ever since Nintendo announced that Animal Crossing would be their next franchise going to mobile, it has arguably been the company’s most anticipated smartphone release. And it’s finally here!Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes maintained some of what made their original franchises so beloved, but had to alter themselves in significant ways to make sense on phones and tablets. Meanwhile, Miitomo wasn’t even a game, it was a Nintendo-themed social networking app. But core Animal Crossing games are naturally about casually living your life, checking in on your town every day, and socializing. The formula is a perfect fit for mobile. Just look at how well it has worked on handhelds.However, from what we’ve initially played Pocket Camp isn’t just a straight port of the Animal Crossing we all know and love now but now on iOS and Android. It’s not as radical a spin-off as, say, Happy Home Designer or Amiibo Festival. But the subtle shifts they’ve made to the template are still pretty fascinating.AdChoices广告The game uses the camp metaphor to position itself as sort of your “home away from home,” your way to enjoy Animal Crossing in both the virtual and literal great outdoors since you can play it anywhere, everywhere, and every time you have your phone. Set up your campsite. Gather different materials to craft new goodies. Attract animal friends. Hang out with your real friends.It’s all typical Animal Crossing stuff, but the game is more compartmentalized. Instead of exploring the expansive world to find minerals or bugs along the way, you visit a scaled-down area dedicated to that resource chosen from a map. That more direct, menu-heavy management looks very much like a mobile game.Pocket Camp also introduces its own new ideas to Animal Crossing. You can change your skin tone! Instead of having a home you live in an RV with an interior and exterior to customize, accurate for our modern economy. You can even get it tuned up by some good pigeon mechanics. The game also has a Stardew Valley-esque explicit friendship meter, showing you just how bonded you are to these animals. Maybe you can marry Isabelle???But let’s not forget that this is a free-to-play mobile game, and Pocket Camp’s biggest (but not necessarily best) changes to Animal Crossing stems from that decision. Timers prevent you from doing any task too quickly unless you speed them up with “Leaf Tickets,” in-game currency that costs actual money even if they are handed out somewhat generously.That’s bad, but the one silver lining to Animal Crossing embracing microtransactions is the darkly comic way it ties in with the franchise’s existing lore. One of Nintendo’s biggest strengths as a developer is using characters as anthropomorphized ways of easily explaining some tricky gameplay mechanics.Watch rabbits jump up walls in Super Metroid before doing it yourself. 3D cameras and targeting can initially be tough to wrap your head around, but Lakitu holding a camera in Super Mario 64 or Navi locking onto enemies in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are cute and entertaining and immediately make sense.Tying gameplay to characters also lets Nintendo maintain its preferred story-to-gameplay ratio, with gameplay being much more prominent. Occasionally we’ll get something like the touching, but super depressing, gameplay-free, secret Rosalina storyline in Super Mario Galaxy, but those are rare exceptions.Animal Crossing uses this method constantly. It’s a game entirely about anthropomorphization. You don’t just go to the museum or get your clothes customized or play the stalk market. You visit Blathers and The Able Sisters and Joan. The gameplay and characters are joined at the hip.Just look at my favorite Animal Crossing character, Mr. Resetti. He serves a real gameplay purpose, wasting players’ time to actively discourage them from resetting the game and breaking the illusion of a life sim. But he does so in a way that’s funny and not too aggressive, upsetting, or out of line with the game’s chill tone. I wonder how he’ll pop up in a mobile game that autosaves to the cloud?But the king of characters-as-concepts in Animal Crossing is Tom Nook. He controls your house. He controls your finances. He controls the store you buy so many vital things from. Tons of video games have trinkets for you to buy, but few connect them all back to a single character as greedy, authoritative, but still totally charming as this droopy-eyed furry raccoon dog plutocrat. His operations have only grown bigger throughout the games.And in Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, you can now pay Tom Nook real money. Not just some of your real money. This isn’t a Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball situation where the in-app purchases are finite. In true modern mobile game fashion, you can theoretically pay Tom Nook an infinite amount of your actual money to get more fake money you’ll pay him with, too. It’s terrifying and yet hilarious and beautiful in its cold cyclical perfection.So hold on to your wealth while you still can because it will be Tom Nook’s soon enough now that Animal Crossing Pocket Camp has launched on iOS and Android devices. Now we just wait to see what Nintendo’s next mobile game will be.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Trade In Your Nintendo Switch For a Better Battery (With a Catch)’Astral Chain’ and Other Dumb Nintendo Songs Stay on targetlast_img read more