No, Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ ESRB Rating Does Not Mean That It’ll Have Microtransactions

Unfortunately, jumping the gun is the name of the game when it comes to video game journalism, and sometimes WGG isn’t exempt from that either.

Earlier today, news “broke” about Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ ESRB rating, which is now available to view on Nintendo’s website. Here’s how it looks:

Naturally, we’ve already seen the inevitable wave of internet pants-shitting whenever the “M” word is mentioned. People see “In-Game Purchases”, and immediately defer to MICROTRANSACTIONS as though that’s the only possible thing it could mean. The reality, however, is much less exciting (and would generate less clicks) so hey – why bother discussing it? Well folks, I’ve got plenty of time on my hands today, so that’s exactly what we’re about to do.

For those unfamiliar with their anatomy, ESRB ratings contain three parts. Rating Categories suggest age appropriateness, that’s your “E for Everyone”. Content Descriptors above the dividing line point out in-game elements that may have triggered the game’s Rating Category (In this case, that’s “Comic Mischief”). And the final component, below the dividing line, are the Interactive Elements, which were added to the ESRB’s rating system in 2018. This part of the rating highlights the interactive or online features of a product. The ESRB themselves describe these elements as:

  • purchases of digital goods or services are offered in-game,
  • users can interact with each other,
  • a user’s location can be shared with other users, and/or
  • unrestricted internet access is provided.

In the case of Animal Crossing’s rating, the outrage engine has already decided that “In-Game Purchases” has signaled the end of the Animal Crossing franchise as we know it. We’ve got “gotchas”, “I told you so’s“, and everything else in between – but what does this tag actually mean in the eyes of the ESRB?

In-Game Purchases
Contains in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency, including but not limited to bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes and upgrades (e.g., to disable ads)

ESRB Official Ratings Guide

Sure, the majority of that definition makes me want to puke in my mouth, and sure – Nintendo has made over one billion dollars in player spending via their mobile games. But the reality of the situation is this definition also covers something 99% of AAA games have these days… DLC.

Oh fuck, Downloadable Content?! You better believe it. Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Pokémon Sword & Shield, Splatoon, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Luigi’s Mansion, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate all have DLC, but only a couple of those were released after the ESRB added the “in-game purchases” warning to their label.

Could you imagine the uproar about a Zelda game with a microtransactions label? I’m getting sick just thinking about it. But hey, as I mentioned up above, “Animal Crossing will have probably have DLC” and “Animal Crossing will probably have MICROTRANSACTIONS” just don’t generate the same amounts of ad revenue, do they?

So, will Animal Crossing: New Horizons have microtransactions? My guess is absolutely not. Nintendo already has Pocket Camp for those who need a mobile AC fix, and that’s already packed with subscriptions, microtransactions, and other modes of monetization.

My wager is that ACNH will have DLC in some form, and I’ll take it a step further to bet that Nintendo will likely tie in the releases of future titles to create new, exciting items to celebrate new first-party releases. Like, maybe we’ll get a “Breath of the Wild 2 DLC Pack” that’ll contain all-new Zelda themed clothing, furniture and other stuff. At the end of the day, Animal Crossing isn’t some uber-competitive title that players are going to use pay-to-win strategies to get ahead of one another, so the typical things you’d envision (like loot boxes) when you think “MICROTRANSACTIONS” just simply don’t make sense for this franchise.

So calm down, everyone. Enjoy your Sunday, and get back to daydreaming about picking peaches and fishing with your pals.

Papa Dom

Co-founder, lead blogger, graphic designer, and manager of WGG's writing team - Dom has been writing about video games for over ten years. Dom's work has been featured on some of the world's biggest gaming news outlets - including Dexerto, GameInformer, and IGN.

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