Quarantine's favorite game, "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," gets a free major update with new content, like a shrub seller and an art gallery.

News outlets say it's perfectly designed for the coronavirus moment. You probably know someone who plays it. Since its release in March, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has taken the gaming world by storm in the gentlest and cutest way possible. It's a tranquil game where players escape to an island paradise full of cheery talking animals to spend their days growing money on trees and arranging furniture. With a huge new (and free!) update, Nintendo is making it clear that Animal Crossing is here to stay.

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Social media has been flooded with pics of people's custom island homes. Pic courtesy of  @cam_gordon and @iPhoneinCanada

New Events

Animal Crossing games are special because their in-game clock is synced to the real-world clock. That makes the game perfect for celebrating seasonal events, like early April's Bunny Day to coincide with much of the world celebrating Easter. The new update adds festivities for the following events:

  • Nature Day (April 23–May 4): Nature-themed challenges, like planting trees and flowers, give bonus rewards. New merchants arrive with botanical wares.
  • May Day Tour (May 1–7): Players can get a special May Day Ticket to visit a new mystery island, with the promising of a surprise returning character.
  • International Museum Day (May 18–31): The in-game museum will hand out stamp cards for players to visit exhibits and collect stamps. Visiting all the fish, bugs, and fossils nets a reward.
  • Wedding Season (June 1–30): June's the time to get married, I guess. Players can visit Harvey’s photography island to meet the married couple Reese and Cyrus, and also take anniversary photos with the decorations. Players will get wedding-themed items as party favors.

New Characters and Merchants

  • Leif the Sloth will visit player islands after the update and bring his traveling garden shop. He'll sell flower seeds and all-new shrubs and hedges to landscape with.
  • Jolly Redd is a sly fox who will visit the "secret beach" on the north side of every island in his ship, the Treasure Trawler. He sells rare furniture as well as art—some of which might not be entirely genuine ... Careful art appraisers can add genuine articles to their museum.
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Hope there's room on your meticulously-planned island for some beautiful shrubs. Pic courtesy @NintendoAmerica on Twitter.

An Economy Fix?

The update also includes a patch meant to fix the game's economy, which runs on Bells. Excess Bells the player earns can be stored in a bank, which accrues interest over time. That's a good principle—but some players have been gaming the system and breaking the economy. By changing the Nintendo Switch's internal clock, players can "time travel" into the far future and back to reap the rewards of compound interest over huge chunks of time (time traveling is mostly scorned and thought of as cheating by the fanbase). With the update, the apologetic bank announces decreased interest rates, but offers a nice rug as compensation.

Have you been playing Animal Crossing? What's been keeping you busy and connected these days? Leave a comment below!