Happy Home Paradise has truly brought excitement back to island life in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The expansion offers up a creative career as a designer on an archipelago, with a satisfying sense of progression and a bountiful array of new furniture items and design features. As the very first paid DLC, it has undoubtedly delivered a fantastic and substantial addition to Tom Nook's getaway package, but there's also something quite bittersweet and significant about its arrival.
After some confusion caused during the initial reveal of the expansion, Nintendo clarified that Happy Home Paradise will be the first and only paid DLC to reach our sandy shores. Along with Animal Crossing: New Horizons update 2.0 – which marks the end of major free updates – Happy Home Paradise now feels like the last big hurrah for New Horizons, and in a way, it's a shame to see it happen quite so soon.
During the first year of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the changing seasons brought in a variety of updates that kept excitement surrounding island life very much alive. As we entered into the new year, and we began to repeat the same seasons again without any changes, the appetite for new additions only increased among players as the months stretched on.
While we had to wait for quite some time, the Animal Crossing Direct in October offered up a very generous helping with the reveal of the Happy Home Paradise expansion and the 2.0 update. We were showered with an array of exciting new features – the return of Brewster's café, alongside the introduction of cooking, farming, island ordinances, and so much more. Suddenly, players who had stepped away from their virtual islands in the absence of updates were enticed to return once again.
In a sense, it was actually pretty overwhelming to be given so much to do and discover all at once after so long, but the joy surrounding the announcement only served to illustrate how eager players are to have a reason to jump back in. The paid DLC, in particular, offers up a fresh new experience that has proven such a breath of fresh air for me as a long-time player.
I especially appreciate the way it encourages me to steadily work towards advancing my new job as designer, with various unlockable features to gain along the way. I can only imagine how the expansion may draw new players to invest in Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the first time. It's so good, in fact, that I can't help but let my mind wonder about what else Nintendo could do, were it to reverse its decision to cease support for New Horizons and bring us more paid expansions in the future.
Given that our island has an airport that can take us to new locations, it's so ripe for the picking when it comes to bringing in new adventures. It feels like such a missed opportunity to end the expansions at Happy Home Paradise – especially when you consider just how successful New Horizons has been. With an impressive 34 million copies sold as of September 30, 2021, little under two years after it first launched, it's now the second best selling Switch game of all time and the most successful Animal Crossing entry to date. While past entries have historically only gotten a few updates and very rarely got paid DLC, the incredible success of New Horizons and the players' continued appetite to play goes a long way to show just how well more future expansions would be received and no doubt do.
Of course, we don't know what Nintendo has planned for certain, or what it might already have in the works for the future of Animal Crossing. It is important to remember, too, just how prevalent Animal Crossing became in 2020, and the circumstances surrounding its launch. Released just as parts of the UK and the US were entering lockdown in earnest, many turned to the virtual getaway as means of connecting with loved ones and bringing to life milestone moments they couldn't enact in the real world.
From finding its way into talk shows, museum collaborations, mayonnaise advertisements, Pride events, and more, it became a cultural phenomenon during the pandemic. And because we were at home more, players spent a lot of time in the game world – perhaps moving past Nook's goal posts much quicker than the game intended.
While there is a sense of finality to the statement that Happy Home Paradise is the first and only paid DLC, it's by no means an actual end to Animal Crossing: New Horizons – even if we don't get anything new in the future. The series by its very design has always offered a virtual space that you can always keep coming back to and take at your own pace, and the seasons will continue to come and go on our islands just as they do in the real world.
It's hard not to think about the future of New Horizons following our designer job with Paradise Planning, but it's such a delight to dive back into the game to see beloved NPCs and have new goals to work towards. It may be bittersweet to think that Happy Home Paradise looks set to be the only expansion we'll see, but it's not an exaggeration to say that the DLC and the update have really rounded off the experience of island life into a more complete package.