Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ multiplayer has some major downsides

There are some major downsides to Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer gameplay, with players complaining that Player 2 is unable to actually “share” the island in the way they were hoping to. As a result, those sharing an island with another player — the only way to experience Animal Crossing: New Horizons with two or more players using the same Switch — could be left very disappointed.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer restrictions are awful

Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer

When things start off for the second player, they’ll get walked through the basics: an introduction to Tom Nook’s workshop, an explanation of Nook Miles, and all of the other things you would expect from a tutorial. From there, the game diverges severely.

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Firstly, Player 2 can’t pick up resources in some scenarios. As an example, if Player 1 collected wood from a tree, Player 2 can’t gather from that same tree. In a local co-op situation, only the “main” player can access their inventory. These are certainly noticeable limitations for the game, but it’s far from the worst one.

The first person to create the island is more or less considered “in charge.” That means that Player 2 (or anyone else who isn’t the main player) has some major restrictions for Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer. Other players can’t build buildings or really do anything that advances the story, instead tagging along on Player 1’s adventure. Additionally, the game’s resources aren’t duplicated if another player chooses to play separately on the same Switch. This means that if one player has chopped a bunch of wood or picked up some fruit in the morning, a player hopping on in the afternoon will be left without any resources to gather.

What this means is that the first person to load up and play the game on a Nintendo Switch will have the best experience.  The other players hoping to enjoy their Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer experience on the same console are effectively getting an inferior, limited version of the game.

Switching things up

Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer

In Nintendo’s defense, it is very easy to switch between players when you’re playing co-op Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer. Simply shaking the Joy-Con will present the option for someone else to take on the leadership role so that they can access their inventory and do more.

That said, this is a very messy implementation of multiplayer. Why all the need for hot-swapping between “active” players? I understand that it might not be technically feasible to do split-screen on one Nintendo Switch console, but would it have been so much easier to let Player 2 open up their inventory or build buildings.

Perhaps there was a concern about the island’s “owner” waking up to find everything radically changed by someone else in their household. That’s certainly understandable, but something like that can be fixed with permission settings. Plenty of multiplayer games that allow building towns have such options. As an example, Cryofall’s “Land Claim” system lets you decide whether or not to allow people to touch your stuff. If you don’t want them to touch your storage or build on your plot of land, they can make their own.

A sizable (but fixable) problem

Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer

Whether you’ve bought the physical cartridge or a digital download, one thing is certain: you are going to have to store some data on your Nintendo Switch console or its SD card. That’s a given for modern game systems. Most everyone is familiar with a day one patch or downloadable content.

The total file size for a fully-digital download is 6.6 GB. I would put good money on the actual island only taking up a small portion of that space and the majority of that file size being dedicated towards the game’s assets, like character assets, sound files, and whatnot.

The load time for getting into your island is also pretty darn snappy. With relatively quick load times, it would have been feasible to allow for multiple islands in an era of 128 GB SD cards. One of those could store 21 copies of the entire digital game and still have room left over, nevermind how many different versions of an island (however big the file size might be).

Nintendo may have wanted to have players share the same island, but they way they’ve implemented Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer is awkward. What should have been a wholesome co-op experience is causing many players’ headaches, so hopefully this will be rectified in a future patch.