A cutesy, family-friendly animated game in which players create an island paradise has beaten hardcore gamer favourites such as Call of Duty to become the top-selling title of the coronavirus lockdown, as millions seek light relief to break the monotony of quarantine living.
Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the latest edition of the franchise, was the bestselling video game title in the US last month, according to new figures. While sales of individual titles are not released, research firm NPD estimates that total sales of gaming software in the US jumped 34% in March to $739m (£598m), the most for that month in almost a decade.
The new Animal Crossing, where players become cute animal villagers and turn a barren desert island into a colourful paradise, has proved an international hit, with sales estimated at more than 3m in the first three weeks after launching on the Switch console on 20 March.
In the UK, the title immediately raced to the top of the charts, outmuscling perennial favourites including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the biggest-selling global title last year, including 1.2m sales in the UK, as well as FIFA 2020, and Doom Eternal, which it pushed off the No1 spot.
With a wider multigenerational family fanbase than most bestselling titles, Animal Crossing is now the biggest single game launched on Nintendo Switch, and is proving to be an escapist antidote to the coronavirus pandemic.
The title currently ranks as the second-most popular in the UK, according to the latest sales figures for the week ending 16 April.
“The widespread stay-at-home response to the coronavirus pandemic has lent itself to increased video game engagement and spending,” said Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush.
The total UK video games market, including buying software, consoles and online gaming, hit £5.35bn last year, according to new figures published by the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) this week.
This represents a 4.8% drop on 2018 as gamers hold back on some spending as they await the launch of new next-generation consoles. Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X are due to launch later this year.
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