Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the most highly anticipated Nintendo Switch games in recent memory which means those who pre-ordered it have been counting down the moments until the time when the game unlocks and becomes playable. For those who aren't used to pre-ordering games digitally from Nintendo and aren't sure when the game fully unlocks, you can start playing the game the exact minute its release date hits, but depending on what time zone you're in, you can actually start playing it a few hours before the actual release date. Nintendo's pre-purchase policy applies to Animal Crossing: New Horizons as well.
The release time for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, like other pre-purchased Nintendo Switch games, is 12 a.m. ET, according to the Nintendo's FAQ page on the matter. Some third-party games aren't available until later in the day, but since the new Animal Crossing game is a first-party title, players don't have to worry about this kind of delay.
"Certain games are available for pre-purchase on Nintendo eShop prior to their release date," Nintendo's policy said. "When you pre-purchase a game, a non-playable version of the game will be pre-loaded to your system at the time of your order. You'll be able to start playing it after downloading a small update, beginning at 12:00 AM ET on the game's release date."
So for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game should now be widely available to everyone following its 12 a.m. ET launch on March 20th. Those in other regions got a bit of a head start on it like, but everyone should now be able to play along with each other and build up their islands while paying others a visit through the game's multiplayer component.
The release times for games like this one are always basically set in stone since it's just a simple unlocking of the digital game that's required, but those who pre-ordered physical versions of the game may now be regretting getting it that way. Amazon said recently that the game and DOOM Eternal, another big release which happened on March 20th, might not arrive at people's doorsteps on time because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some people are getting messages that their deliveries won't arrive until next week, though some Animal Crossing players are still getting their games in on time.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is now available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.