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Why this Animal Crossing guidelines update is causing an uproar

A Nov. 19 update to Animal Crossing: New Horizons was, for the most part, a welcome addition to Nintendo's latest mega hit. New features, including some long-awaited by fans, have maintained what has been a steady stream of new content through the eight months since the game's release. However, players noticed a line added to the game's usage guidelines, which were updated in conjunction with the game, seemingly restricting the ability of content creators to monetize their creations made using New Horizons. Those that have thus far been outputting and profiting from Animal Crossing content are, understandably, upset.

The new guidelines state that players "are not allowed to obtain any financial benefit" from use of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, before more explicitly outlining that this includes selling custom patterns and earning advertising revenue from game-based content. Like standard legalese, the vague wording of the initial statement leaves open the possibility that Nintendo can shut down not just those hawking custom designs, for example, but even a YouTuber simply walking viewers through their island if they happen to receive ad revenue for their video doing so.

In practice, however, this may not be how it's implemented. While the updated language casts a wide net, Nintendo could simply be looking for a legal in-road with which to shut down only the content creators they deem to be out of step with their famously family-friendly brand. Though even if this were to be the case, what might or might not meet their guidelines is solely up to Nintendo's discretion and potentially still puts some established content in peril.

On social media, some are taking this change in policy as a betrayal by Nintendo. New Horizons is, compared to past Animal Crossing games, designed explicitly around customizability. Mainstays of past games like The Roost coffee shop, for example, have been removed in favor of the abilities to place furniture outdoors, and terraform land, and character customization is more in-depth than ever. These changes allowed players an unprecedented degree of freedom to conform their game world to a predetermined vision.

New Horizons has maintained a considerable fanbase in part because of these features. Players who put in enough work are now capable of creating something that is wholly their own. Naturally, some of those players who have done so are going to want to show off their in-game creations, into which they very well may have sunk hundreds of hours, through media from which they receive ad revenue.

Cultivating a healthy community of content creators is perhaps the foremost method for modern-day games to maintain relevancy, so it's all the more surprising that Nintendo seems to be pushing away the well-established New Horizons community, whether or not they intend to act on this new directive.