Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (ACPC)launched just a week ago for mobile devices. Though it didn't do as well in its first week as Super Mario Run, it has the potential to be Nintendo's most popular mobile game thus far. Early estimates show that it was downloaded approximately 15 million times within it's first four days on iOS and Android and it currently holds the #3 spot for top free games in the App Store.
Its initial launch may not have been as big as Super Mario Run's 40 million downloads in its first week, but what makes ACPC unique is its potential staying power. Similar to Niantic's Pokémon GO, the point of this game is to collect things - furniture, animal friends, clothing items. People love to collect things.
Players are more likely to come back to ACPC again and again in an attempt to collect all the things.
ACPC has a built-in fanbase right out of the gate
Nintendo has the market on nostalgia for multiple generations of gamers. It started with Mario and has continued with The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon and more. Twenty-somethings that were of video game playing age at the turn of the century are hooked on the likes of KK Slider, Isabelle, and Tom Nook.
There's practically a built in guarantee with publishing mobile games based on its most popular franchises. It's highly likely that if you loved Animal Crossing on Nintendo 64 or Game Cube, you've already downloaded ACPC.
But, that doesn't necessarily mean that ACPC is going to become a hugely popular mobile game.
Where others have failed
Super Mario Run, at this time, is Nintendo's most popular mobile game in terms of downloads. As of October 2017, it had been downloaded approximately 200 million times. Though large in number of downloads, it is weak in profit. Nintendo's president, Tatsumi Kimishima, was famously quoted as saying that Super Mario Run's profits "did not meet our expectations."
The less popular, as far as downloads, Fire Emblem Heroes, far surpassed Super Mario Run, in terms of grossing, in a shorter timeframe. Fire Emblem Heroes currently sits at #15 for top grossing apps in the App Store while Super Mario Run is way down the list at #351. To rub a little more salt in that wound, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is already at #80 and moving upward.
Why is Super Mario Run doing so poorly while Fire Emblem Heroes and ACPC have surpassed it significantly in terms of profits? In-app purchases. There are always plenty of people on social media talking loudly and often about how much they hate free games with in-app purchases. They accuse developers of being greedy and cry that they would never play a "freemium" game.
But the numbers speak for themselves and Nintendo is paying attention. All Super Mario Run did was prove that mobile gamers are definitively not willing to pay what a game is worth. $10 for a solid, well-made platformer on a mobile device is not too much to pay, but clearly many people weren't willing to pay it.
What they are willing to pay for, however, are bits and pieces of content through micro transactions. We act like it's a personal insult to ask us to pay $10 for a full game, but we end up spending three, four, five times as much as that over time for a game with in-app purchases.
What ACPC does right
Events, events, and events. It's one of the things that is keeping Fire Emblem Heroes within the top 20 grossing games. What Nintendo is doing with ACPC's events might just prove to be the most successful method of all. The holiday event — ACPC's first — which also dropped right after the game first launched, lasts nearly a month long. Players can log in anytime and as often as they want in an effort to collect all of the special festive items. You're not required to play at a specific time and you've got lots of time to get all of the items.
Players can take their time (though not too much time!) getting all of the special event items. If someone is a serious collector, they can spend leaf tickets, which eventually would cost real money, to speed up the process and get all of the collectable items.
It keeps players engaged and makes a profit for Nintendo. Win win!
If Nintendo continues with special events for various holidays throughout the year, ACPC will definitely come out on top as the most profitable mobile game for the company so far.
ACPC's success goes even deeper than mobile gaming
I repurchased Animal Crossing: New leaf on my Nintendo 3DS just a few days after ACPC's worldwide launch because I was feeling a strong sense of nostalgia for the game. Not only can Nintendo make money off of ACPC for a long time if it keeps up the events on a regular basis and adds new content often, but it can also make money off of games that lost their selling power years ago. Our love of games long-past are rekindled when we play new versions in these franchises.
ACPC is a snack compared to the full meal that is Animal Crossing, and that's a good thing
I've seen some comments around the socials that ACPC is nothing more than a tease or snippet of what the Animal Crossing franchise provides in terms of gameplay. You know what? They're right.
But they're looking at it all wrong. It's great that Pocket Camp is merely a snack or just a bite of what a full Animal Crossing game is. It hits all of those nostalgia points, gives us a reason to go into that world without having to spend a lot of time there, and even sparks some old flames that have been cold for a decade.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp shouldn't be compared to the full console games in the franchise. It isn't that. It can't ever be. Instead, ACPC should be compared to time-based simulation games on mobile. What Nintendo does better than most in the genre is keep you engaged, give you enough to do without paying for it, while offering some sweet extras if you do choose to put your money where your villager is.
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Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books. If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).