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What this time travel change means for Animal Crossing players

Since the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons in March of 2020, Nintendo has proceeded to roll out periodic patches to general game functions, often bundled with updates centered on seasonal events. A Nov. 19 update adding future Turkey Day (based on Thanksgiving) and Toy Day (based on Christmas) holidays also brought with it a significant change to time traveling, which was outlined in detail by Polygon. Now players are no longer able to participate in special events prior to their corresponding real-world date.

Time traveling refers to a longstanding exploit that allows Animal Crossing players to change their system's clock to thus the in-game date and time, since it matches that of the system. Its inclusion is why, for example, the full list of fish players can catch in January is easily searchable online despite New Horizons not having existed in any month of January – players have "time traveled" to January and confirmed what fish were obtainable firsthand.

In addition to catching fish early, time travelers have been able to participate in some of New Horizons' many holidays before players simply waiting for each corresponding holiday to pass in real time. Holiday events are typically introduced in patches, meaning that time traveling to Feb. 14, for example, will not trigger the likely Valentine's Day festivities. However, time traveling players were able to experience past holidays, like the controversial Bunny Day and the recent Harvest Festival, as soon as they were patched into the game, generally weeks ahead of their scheduled date.

Now that is no longer possible. Technically, Nintendo announced that this would be the case at the time of the game's release, but players were nonetheless able to jump ahead to holiday events, in spite of Nintendo's stated intent. According to posts on an Animal Crossing Facebook group (via Polygon), those attempting to get an early look at Turkey Day and Toy Day, though, have confirmed that Nintendo has now made good on their promise and rid the game of this capability.

This is due to New Horizons now verifying the time and date over the internet while checking whether or not to trigger holiday proceedings. Time and date are notably not confirmed under any other circumstances, however, meaning that time traveling to catch fish or for any other reason unrelated to a holiday celebration, like jumping ahead to a night predetermined to include a meteor shower, remain possible. Also possible is the ability to travel back in time and experience a past holiday. 

A downside to this change may be that those missing out on, say, this year's Turkey Day due to a busy real world Thanksgiving can only jump back to the holiday on a later date. However, a much larger number of players will now all experience Turkey Day for the first time with one another, more closely resembling a typical holiday.