Animal Crossing Online is a Mess, Here’s How Nintendo Can Fix It.

John ProfileBy: John Wahl

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an incredible game. It’s the best game in the series and it’s everything that I needed in my life right now. It’s casual, relaxing, and it’s something that my entire family can enjoy together. It’s also a game for people to connect with one another in a time when we’ve never felt more disconnected from our friends and the rest of the world… at least that’s what it could have been if Nintendo hadn’t implemented one of the most poorly thought out and executed online experiences I’ve ever seen.

Playing New Horizons online is a clumsy, complicated mess. While it’s absolutely possible to play the game with your friends online, it’s usually a pain to get into and it can be difficult to have fun. But it’s not too late for Nintendo to right the ship. The game has been a monumental hit and Nintendo has shown that they’re committed to updating the game regularly, so we’ve come up with a list of some of the simple things that they can fix or remove to make this game the complete experience we all want it to be.

There’s An App For That

If you want visitors to come to your island, you need to open the gates at the airport to allow them in. Conceptually I have no issue with this idea, we don’t necessarily want any old schmucks wandering into our paradise if we’re just hopping on for a few moments to sell turnips or if we’re playing co-op with our kids. But right now the only way to open them is to go into the airport itself and ask Orville to open them. If I’m at the opposite end of my island and Adam messages me that he’d like to come over I need to stop what I’m doing, run all the way down to the airport, and then answer 3 or 4 prompts asking me all sorts of questions about “how” I want to open my gates.

There is no reason that this process needs to take as long as it does. Something like opening your game to online play should take seconds, not minutes. There’s a simple fix… an airport app. Put an app on your Nook phone that you can open up wherever you are that let’s you open your gates with a few quick button presses and quickly toggle between open and closed, best friends or everybody, etc. It makes so much sense I honestly can’t believe it’s not in the game already.

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That’s Not How Airplanes Work

It’s happened to me dozens of times. Someone online posts that they’re opening their gates for visitors so I run down to the airport, answer all of their stupid questions so that I can fly, and then receive the message “Wuh-oh! Looks like we’re getting some interference”. That message pops up when you’re trying to visit someone but they’re either looking at their Nook phone or are in a conversation. Yep, that’s right. It’s exactly as stupid as it sounds. Airplanes can’t take off if the person you’re visiting is doing… almost anything.

Not only is this frustrating if you’re trying to visit a friend’s island, but it also means that if you want to open your gates to visitors on your own island, you’d better just stand around staring at the damn trees while you wait because nobody is getting in if you so much as look at your map. I can’t even fathom the reasoning behind this one.

B1A3FE5C-F080-4336-AF3F-63BB64EA5CE8Worst. Party. Ever.

Okay, say you’ve managed to navigate the labyrinth of stupidity that is Dodo Airlines and have arrived at a friend’s island. Congratulations! Now you guys can hang out and do whatever you want! As long as what you want to do isn’t move any of your items, lay down paths, alter terrain, order items,  basically anything to do with decorating or improving your island. So kiss those dreams of working together with your friends to create your paradise goodbye. If they want to come shop and draw dirty pictures on your bulletin board though, you’re all good.

Not only does this unnecessarily limit what you and your friends can do together, but it creates this weird awkwardness whenever I visit someone else’s island. I feel like I’m intruding because they can’t do all of the things they might want to otherwise do because I’m there. It takes a feature that should be one of the highlights of the game and turns it into a weird, uncomfortable visit. This is Animal Crossing, not Thanksgiving with your in-laws.

What Do You Get The Person You Can’t Connect With?

My wife Cristina wanted to send Adam something she found in the game that she thought he would enjoy. She packed it up, went down to the airport to mail it, and found out that she couldn’t send anything because she wasn’t a Nintendo Online subscriber.  Never mind that I, as the Resident Representative pay for online service, she doesn’t so she can’t send gifts or letters. Okay, whatever, I’ll pay the extra $15 per year and get a Nintendo Online Family Membership. So we go through the deal of signing her up, going to the Nintendo website to add her to my plan, etc. Done. She is now paying for online service.

Of course then we realize that she can’t send Adam anything because they aren’t Switch friends, so we get a hold of Adam’s Friend Code (we won’t get started on that one again), send him a friend request, wait for him to accept, and then go back to the airport to send the package. Except she still can’t send it because they’re only Switch friends and haven’t actually met in the game itself. That sound you hear is my wife throwing a Pro Controller through the wall. For as difficult as they’re making it to send, Adam better love this damn Pond Stone.

Red Light, Green Light

The other day a friend of mine messaged me that his turnips were going for a high price. He messaged me his Dodo Code and I caught a quick flight over. He also shared this information with a website that specializes in sharing Turnip prices, so that means that I wasn’t the only one looking to cash in. As soon as I set foot on his island other people started showing up. Sounds great, right? One big get rich party? Wrong.

Every time someone new shows up an announcement comes across the screen notifying you that someone is coming to the island. Then you need to watch as they show this person arriving at the airport. Not a big deal in theory, it only takes about 10 seconds after all, but imagine this on an island with lots of visitors showing up constantly. When combined with the fact that the game does the same thing every time someone leaves the island as well, it meant that it was difficult to do much of anything without constantly being interrupted. I can’t think of a reason why that needs to pause the action every time. Remove it.

Just Make It Work

The online experience in Animal Crossing is a broken mess, but again, I absolutely adore the game despite it’s flaws. It will undoubtedly be a contender for my Game of the Year, but the absolutely awful state of their online experience is not only heartbreaking but also unacceptable. I know the Switch Online membership is cheap, but that doesn’t make it okay for it to be garbage. We’re paying for a service and it should at least get the easy stuff right.

We’re all quarantined in our homes and everyone in the world seems to be playing this game right now, it would be great to be able to all play together in a way that is seamless and fun, not frustrating. It’s not too late to fix the system and let us all play together. If they can do that, then playing Animal Crossing together with our friends during this tough time will be an experience we’ll look back on years later and fondly reminisce about the ways in which we were still able to connect with one another.

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