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.