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Prerelease:Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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This page details prerelease information and/or media for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

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  • Add sections for the Nintendo Direct footage and E3 2019 gameplay.
  • Cite a source that the CEDEC builds were made in 2018 & 2019
  • Add the rest of the CEDEC images talk about the style balancing described in the presentation.

While Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released in 2020, development began shortly after the release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf in 2012.[1]



  • Nov. 8 - Early plans for the next mainline Animal Crossing entry start conceptualization and development.


  • Unknown - Early builds for the Switch are created.
  • September 13 - A new Animal Crossing game for the Switch is confirmed to be in development.[2]


  • June 11 - Trailer and gameplay footage are released at E3 2019.
  • June-December - New features and content are revealed through Nintendo Directs.


  • January-March - New features and content continue to be revealed through Nintendo Directs.
  • March 20 - Animal Crossing: New Horizons is released.
  • New free content updates are to be added every month or so.


  • November 3-5 - Major content updates come to an end with the release of the 2.0 update and Happy Home Paradise DLC.

Early Development

2018-2019 Builds

During the CEDEC 2020 conference in Japan, some screenshots of the game at an early point in development were revealed. This first screenshot features the player walking on an island in an early build.

A very early development screenshot showing completely different textures and detailed grass.
  • The player character has very similar appearance to the that of the final game.
  • On the left side of the screen, the villager Bob is seen wearing a purple shirt. On the right edge of the screen there is a shadow resembling a cat NPC and a purple tail similar to Bob's. It's possible that there were multiple Bobs roaming the island while NPCs were still being tested (however, this is unconfirmed).
  • The ground has realistic growing tufts of grass, which were scrapped because they made seeing weeds more difficult.
  • The dirt has an early texture, with the color falling somewhere between the regular dirt path and dark dirt path in the final.
  • The dirt patches don't seem to be laid out in an organized way, so this may have been before grass deterioration and natural dirt patches were removed.
  • There are two identical buildings partially visible in front of the player. These might be an early placeholder for villager houses.
  • A very early version of the Resident Services building can be seen in the upper-right corner.
  • In front of that building is a stone place reminiscent of New Leaf. This stone also forms a path along the left side of the screen.
  • In the background is a player's house with a green mum wreath on the door, which looks similar to the final player houses.
  • This screenshot has a white vignette effect, which may signal a shift in art style before the game's release. Vignettes would appear in the final but only at night.

This screenshot features a player standing in front of a patch of weeds. Unlike the last screenshot, this one includes an early HUD.

This screenshot has a player house, furniture, the scrapped white fencing, flowers, weeds, a river and cliffs.
  • The time and date are in the lower-left corner, with a design reminiscent of the clock in Doubutsu no Mori e+. The final game's clock has a basic white font and no background.
  • A very early map details the island layout in the bottom-right corner. There is a large portion of yellow indicating the beach. It is much larger and more rectangular than the beaches in the final game, with an extra rectangular shape jutting out on the right, and a patch of sea in the lower-left corner.
  • The water in the river looks similar to the water in New Leaf, and the shore of the river has a more rock-like texture than the final game. Part of another body of water can be seen on left edge of the screen.
  • There is an tree with oranges growing on it in the upper-right corner of the screen.
  • The Cosmos flowers near the player look almost identical to the final version.
  • The patch of weeds is highlighted as part of the presentation to indicate how difficult it was to see them among the more the realistic grass.
  • The white fencing in the background was not present at launch, but it was added in the 2.0 update. A version of the fence was present in the release version, but with a different texture
  • Behind the fences is a different player house. The bike and trash can furniture items are placed in front of the house, suggesting that the ability to place furniture and fences outside was implemented early on.
  • Over the horizon, a rooftop and chimney are barely visible, with the chimney blowing smoke. The red roof indicates this may be another player house, but this is not confirmed.
  • In both upper corners are an early cliff design, resembling the cliffs from New Leaf.

E3 2019 Trailer

The game was unveiled at E3 2019 with a trailer showing some gameplay footage. There are several differences between this build and the final, though most are aesthetic.

The beginning of the trailer, showing the player walking along the beach.
This cliff layout is not possible in the final game.
  • The ocean looks has a more basic and cartoon-like appearance than the final build.
  • The sand on the beach looks a lot less detailed. In a later clip (when the player decorates the beach in the morning), it seems much more detailed with a wavy texture and light grains, much like the final sand. This may be a different build, or it may just be a difference in the lighting and time of day.
  • The ledge connecting the beach with the grass is a slightly different color.
  • The grass is lacking the realistic tufts from earlier screenshots, and the triangular pattern present in the final build is faint, making the grass appear almost a solid green color.
  • During the clip of the player pushing a snowball in winter, there is a cliff which appears to extend 2 tiles outward. The cliff is diagonal on both edges in a way that is not possible in the final game. In the final game, a cliff can only be diagonal on one edge, and attempting to terraform the other corner will simply destroy the cliff.
  • The same white simple wooden fence from the earlier screenshots can be seen at the end of the trailer, except with a more similar look to the wood fences in the final game.


April 26, 2021

Animal Crossing New Horizons-prerelease-2021-04-26 update post-removed screenshot.jpg

An update post on April 26, 2021 included a screenshot of a house style that would be added in November's 2.0 update. It was soon replaced with another screenshot, and an apology was posted on the Japanese version of the site.

(Source: Nintendo Life)