If you thought Tom Nook’s antics of charging exorbitant amounts of bells for modest house upgrades were in bad form, wait until you see him in his new capacity. Yes, in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, there will be microtransactions. And, ever the greedy bastard, it looks like Tom Nook has something to do with them.
In-game purchases are a polarizing issue, and they’re honestly why I tend to avoid mobile games altogether. Even so, their existence in the upcoming Animal Crossing mobile isn’t something I’m automatically put off by, for multiple reasons:
1) Because of what I was able to see in the gameplay footage during the Direct
2) Because the very nature of Animal Crossing lends itself to being a decent mobile experience and
3) Admittedly, because I’m an Animal Crossing fan who desperately wants a new Animal Crossing.
Despite being a huge fan of the series who’s hungry for anything Animal Crossing until the (hopefully) inevitable Switch release, I do think there is a way of doing microtransactions right, and this could be the game to do it.
Mobile games are best suited to be played during those bits of time during the day that aren’t quite yours to do just anything with. They’re a good distraction during the long wait before an appointment or on break at work, but most of us aren’t going to devote hours on end to a game on our smart phones.
That being said, it absolutely sucks when mobile games are so restricted by wait times that unless you pay the money or open the game again and again for what amounts to little five-minute gaming sessions spread across the day, you feel no real sense of accomplishment or enjoyment from them. Games like this (looking at you, Sims Freeplay) end up having gameplay so broken up by time that they feel like a chore to keep up with, not to mention that it’s nearly impossible to stay engaged with anything you might be working on in a game when you have to keep leaving it to come back later.
Many mobile games face these issues because they lack much of a point and don’t lead to any real satisfaction after all the waiting. Want to build a thriving city? Okay, click this button. Now click this one. Now wait five hours and then you’ll have a nice building to view which will supply a new series of buttons to click for another building, along with an inevitably long wait time (unless you’re willing to pay).
Obviously, this cynical take could apply to any game if you’re willing to break it down enough, but most mobile games that take this approach lack the variation or strategy required to keep them feeling worthwhile. For a mobile game to be fun and worth your time, it needs to have something more, and this is where Nintendo seems more likely to provide.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp could very well negate the usual issues that plague mobile, free-to-play games if it finds a way to balance the waiting requirement with engaging activities to occupy the players’ time. My hope is that it allows players to fully experience and enjoy the charming world of Animal Crossing, even if they do have to wait five hours to craft a sofa.
Some of the gameplay featured in the Direct showed off past-times familiar to any Animal Crossing fan: fishing and catching bugs. It also showed the ability to forage fresh fruit and mine for special materials by bashing rocks with a shovel. I did notice a timer appear over the tree after apples were taken from it, and the nice narrator did mention that real money can be used to purchase the in-game Leaf Tickets to gain access to rock-bashing, but I didn’t notice anything necessarily restricting access to fishing and bug-catching.
If activities such as fishing and bug-catching aren’t tightly restricted, it will make for an Animal Crossing experience similar to what players of previous iterations are already used to. After all, it’s always been a game that operates in real-time. If you take all the fruit from a tree, you have to wait a while for it to bear more. If you request a house upgrade from Tom Nook (the bastard), you’ll have to wait until the next day to enjoy it. In many ways, it’s a game that lends itself to being a solid mobile experience by its well established relaxed, patience-rewarding nature.
When I dive into any Animal Crossing game, I play knowing that many things I work towards won’t be accomplished in that sitting alone, perhaps not even in the next few days. It’s always been the sort of game that requires revisiting multiple times to meet its in-game goals. That’s actually one of my favorite things about the game. That, and how relaxing and peaceful it is to just explore, listen to what’s always a great soundtrack, and chat with the other villagers. I don’t always have a particular goal in mind or something specific I spend my time working on when I play; often, I visit my Animal Crossing world just to escape the real one. The upgrades or items I’ve ordered will arrive when they arrive, I just want to spend some time fishing and visiting villagers in the meantime.
Really, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp could well be the first mobile game I sink a lot of time and, perhaps, even some real money into. Of course Nintendo is a company, it cost money to make this game, and there is real profit potential in encouraging players to use real money in order to progress. But if the game goes the route of keeping the majority of interactions (and therefore the enjoyment) in the game tied to how much money the player spends, it would ruin what has the potential to be a great game for already established fans and newcomers alike. If it provides that same charm that’s come to be expected from the franchise, and allows the players to engage in meaningful ways outside of the mechanics which encourage microtransactions, this game could feel like a true new Animal Crossing experience. And, just maybe, it could even be enough to keep this massive Animal Crossing fan satisfied until the next console experience.
What do you think? Does this game have the potential to feel like a true Animal Crossing experience, or are you just ready for AC on the Switch already? Either way, be sure to check out the Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Mobile Direct yourself if you haven’t already.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp will be coming to iOS and Android at the end of November.