Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 01, 2017
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

I never owned any Nintendo Wii or 3DS console. Which means that I have never played any game of the Animal Crossing franchise. I was aware that these games existed due to the generally good press they got, but never played one. So when recently Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released on iOS, I decided to give it a try. And ended up seriously disappointed: There is no game in this game!

My general model of modern games is that they have a core game, e.g. combat or a type of puzzle, embedded in a shell of story, rewards, and character progression. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp certainly has the shell part of that: There is a basic story, you do get plenty of rewards for what you do, and there is some sort of character progression in the form of levels and friendship levels to a growing number of animals. However there isn't really a core game. The core consists of clicking on resources to gather them. And that's it. There is no puzzle to solve to gather those resources, no monster to kill, nothing. Some of the resources have a vague hint of a game, which is tapping once to start the process, and then needing to tap a second time within a time window when "tap" is written on your screen, but that is as complicated as it gets. Other resources, like fruits from trees, don't even have that, you just click to gather them.

Crafting isn't really a game either, you just provide the money and resources and wait for minutes or hours until your crafted item is finished. So all you can do in this game is gather resources, and keep various animals happy by providing them either the resources directly or some furniture crafted from those resources. There is a complete absence of any challenge or even actual gameplay. Describing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as a game for children is actually insulting to children.

That the mobile version only provides you with limited amounts of resources every 3 hours or lets you wait for hours for your crafting to finish, but then "allows" you to speed those things up with a currency you get for real money is just the icing on the cake. After playing the game long enough to make sure that I hadn't accidentally overlooked a real game in there, I just uninstalled Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Unless you desperately want a game with absolutely no challenge or real gameplay at all, I can't recommend this.

I'm not going to defend, or even comment on, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which I haven't "played" and don't plan on "playing". What I'd like to re-iterate is this: not everything that's marketed as a "game" should be. There are far more species of digital entertainment than "games" but the language has yet to catch up with the technology.

I've been arguing for a decade and a half that the "G" in MMORPGs does the genre no kind of service whatsoever. We should have stuck with "virtual worlds" and even that only describes a small portion of the genre, albeit the part that interests me. Added to that, the very word "game" in English offers an incredibly loose definition. "Cowboys and Indians" is a "game". "Pirates" is a game. "Dressing Up" is a game. Chess is a Game. Rugby is a game. Poker is a game. Anything can be a game, demotically.

Digital entertainment marketing needs better terms and so do reviewers.

So it's practically Clicker Heroes. The new generation of games, where you literally have no challenge, just rewards.

I guess you can get more rewards for $. I heard that people went whales in Clicker Heroes, which I guess is a level of stupid we can never comprehend.
The developers actually felt guilty about it. Clicker Heroes 2 won't go the microtransactions route, supposedly.
This is my impression of Animal Crossing as well. I was afraid I had missed something until I read this post. Now I can happily uninstall it.
@ Gerry - I think the devs didn't really feel 100% guilty: they jumped on the anti-EA and anti-lootbox hype train while people were completely crazy about that stuff. A pretty good marketing move, in my opinion. The game will sell for $30 which, in my opinion, is a horrible price model. Thirty dollars for a clicker game seems way over the roof. There are many free alternatives to that game, I really can't see this business model going anywhere and they will soon discover that removing microtransactions was a horrible idea.

If you care about your customers and you feel guilty... Just stop people from spending too much. Add a max. purchase cap per day/week/month and you're good to go.
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