Animal Crossing: New Horizons is seemingly cracking down on orgs and ‘politics’ in-game

    
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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is seemingly cracking down on orgs and ‘politics’ in-game

Back in October, we reported on a move by Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to create an island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was subsequently used for cringe-y promotional show with Kinda Funny. At the time, some of our readers wondered whether that was against Nintendo’s terms of use. It wasn’t. But it might be now.

Polygon noticed that this week’s Animal Crossing update also included updates to the usage guidelines for the game that specifically address how businesses and organizations – and presumably campaigns – handle themselves in the game. For example, Nintendo has apparently outlawed “offensive” content, making ad revenue, or running contests for such groups. Oh yeah, and no more politics. Here are the three key bits:

“Please refrain from using the Game inappropriately or creating any content within the Game that would be considered vulgar, discriminatory, or offensive. Please also refrain from bringing politics into the Game.”

“Please do not leverage the Game as a marketing platform that directs people to activities or campaigns outside the game (including directing people to a sales page, distributing coupons, sweepstakes, giveaways, requiring consumers to follow social network services accounts, gathering customers’ information, or other invitational activities).”

“You are not allowed to obtain any financial benefit from using the Game (including selling your Custom Design or earning any advertising revenue with the Game content).”

The phrasing of all of this is very deferential and polite (lots of cheerful, vague requests rather than commands and threats), and the company says it “may” ban offenders (and presumably may waive its rules as it chooses too). It doesn’t appear that Biden Island has actually been banned or even whether it will now that he’s President-Elect, but some of the other rules could have wide-ranging effects for everyone if broadly interpreted. For example, it’s not clear who has to claim the content is offensive (are LGBTQ+ worlds safe?), or whether promoting a profitable Animal Crossing blog is considered directing people to activities outside the game, or whether you as a small business streaming the game on Twitch would generate ad revenue in violation of the rules (Twitch is still loaded with AC:NH streams, so we assume this was directed at things like selling political yard signs, but the wording is admittedly confusing).

In any case, this problem certainly isn’t limited to Animal Crossing, as online games have been grappling with these dilemmas for more than two decades. Most recently, we’ve covered efforts by everything from Second Life to City of Heroes rogue servers attempting to clamp down on certain types of political content in their worlds.

Source: Nintendo via Polygon

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MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

“You are not allowed to obtain any financial benefit from using the Game (including selling your Custom Design or earning any advertising revenue with the Game content).”

Only we are allowed to profit from this, not you.

Alright, didn’t plan on getting your game anyway, but that makes sure I definitely won’t.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Do remember that Nintendo is the company that tried to make it illegal to stream their games. It’s also the company that during the NES and SNES era banned crosses of all kinds from US game releases for its consoles because it refused to allow any reference to real religions. While it does make truly great games, the company is an absolute control freak that would dictate every aspect of using its products if it could.

BTW, Nintendo is also a big part of why I consider a console that hasn’t been cracked or hacked in some way to be no better than a very expensive paperweight. Back in the day I considered a Game Genie to be essential to actually enjoying the early Nintendo consoles.

Reader
Arktouros

This is the big reason why I am against political causes in games and really Animal Crossing is getting what it deserved when it decided to do so for a PR stunt. When you do so you don’t invite just the warm n’ fuzzy feel good causes you also invariably end up inviting the ones you don’t want to hear about as well. Eventually you re-learn the same lesson most companies know, you should just avoid all this as much as possible.

Regarding the wording in their agreement and Twitch streams it’s incredibly common in almost all games to not even allow or give permission to stream the game at all. This is something that has really come up in the wake of the DMCA musictake downs where they all have this language where they basically give you zero permission to stream anything and in some cases actually prohibit it.

However those rules are entirely and completely subjectively enforced. They’re perfectly happy for you to freely advertise their game for them and not enforce the rules that say you can’t. However if you turn on them and start having an adverse impact on them or their business model suddenly all those restrictions become very real and 100% will start getting enforced.

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Hikari Kenzaki

In the long run, this is likely a good thing. What starts out as a political race or similar issue can quickly extend to other forms of ‘free speech’ abuse that they likely don’t want to put themselves in the position of adjudicating.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I imagine LGBTQ+ worlds are safe unless:
1) Nintendo is prepared to claim it is ‘offensive’.
2) It actively encourages people to visit somewhere outside of the game.

People can organize outside of the game and then include ‘we also have an Animal Crossing island’ but they can’t have an Animal Crossing island that includes ‘go to X!’.

Biden Island (etc) might be passively left alone and fade away, unless attention is brought back to it by itself or others, enough to bother to do something with it. I imagine N doesn’t want island flame wars based on real politics, agreeable to you and I or not.

My questioning last time was because I heard – could be wrong – a Japanese political theme was not allowed but somehow Biden Island was (I’m pretty sure smaller known Trump islands were too though). And of course they only clarify this AFTER the election. Sorta like they’re trying to thread the needle of publicity and moderation maybe?

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Vanquesse V

Remember when Tomadachi Life (3DS) had a bug that allowed same sex relationships in the JP version? People asked for it to be a feature, but nintendo refused to do so for the international release because they didn’t want to make “a political statement”

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Malcolm Swoboda

I know – that was also half a decade ago, they’ve made apologies, and there’s contrary messaging in other games since. The Tomadachi Life controversy was especially so because it felt right out of 2000-2005, even for Japan, and there was (limited) effort to quickly rectify.

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Vanquesse V

That’s absolutely fair, it just stood out to me as very tone-deaf back then