Nintendo won over the hearts of countless online E3 2019 viewers with an adorably wholesome gameplay trailer for Animal Crossing: New Horizons before announcing the game's delay from later this year to next spring, and Nintendo seems to have delayed the game to maintain developers' work-life balance. Overworking employees in the name of shipping a product on-time is a reprehensible but widespread practice referred to within the industry as "crunch," and Nintendo is taking a firm stance against it with its new Animal Crossing project.
Though Nintendo's E3 2019 Direct was great even when downshifting a bit to show Luigi body slamming ghosts in Luigi's Mansion 3 and a slew of Dragon Quest heroes rolled into one for a novel Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC fighter, it was a solid showcase that gave fans precisely what they want when unveiling a Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel. Another major reveal that greatly pleased viewers was a world premiere of Animal Crossing: New Horizons gameplay, and the long-awaited series entry looks like everything avid fans of the series could want and more, complete with an all-new island wilderness setting, beautiful visuals, and online multiplayer.
The highly anticipated Switch entry into the Animal Crossing franchise was originally slated to launch sometime in 2019, but the gameplay reveal trailer announced the game's release date to have been pushed back to March 20, 2020. Though delays are commonplace and often expected in software, Nintendo's Yoshiaki Koizumi endearingly provided a profuse apology for the New Horizon's new release window directly after the trailer played during the Direct. Many likely were likely quick to assume this was solely Nintendo's famous philosophy of delayed games eventually becoming good while bad games forever remaining bad, but Twitter user Stealth reports that the primary reason was to spare the responsible studio from an exploitative crunch development period.
Doug Bowser said Animal Crossing: New Horizons might have been able to release in 2019 but Nintendo wants to provide good work life balance and thus the game was delayed to avoid significant extra hours.— Stealth (@Stealth40k) June 12, 2019
We've waited 7 years for a new Animal Crossing. I can wait a bit longer.
Relaying an explanation from Nintendo of America's new CEO, Doug Bowser, Stealth says that while Animal Crossing: New Horizons may well have been ready for the 2019 holiday season if it had only been slathered in an exorbitant amount of developer elbow grease, the game was delayed to early 2020 to "provide good work life balance" and "avoid significant extra hours." Stealth, in addition to many other understanding gamers, have waited so long for a new mainline Animal Crossing title that a few more months are a drop in the bucket, but he makes the cogent point that some less considerate fans may voice their displeasure at the setback.
When it comes to the delay of games in which normally anti-crunch gamers are personally invested, a selective attitude towards workers' rights in the gaming industry is hypocritical and as unhelpful to work-weary developers as much it is to players when downgraded products are ultimately pumped out in a rush. From what was shown in the E3 2019 Direct, Animal Crossing: New Horizons looks as wildly fun as it does heartwarmingly charming. However, when Nintendo's lets players get their hands on it come next year, it will come out on the other side even better than before.