Illustration by Tomi Um for TIME

When more people were forced to physically isolate from one another, Nintendo and its Switch console offered an escape within virtual communities. The sequel to Animal Crossing—a neighborhood-building game in which users set up homes and trade goods—dominated popular culture, while Ring Fit Adventure, featuring at-home exercise routines, became a top-selling title. “I think people want to connect with each other,” says Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser. “When you make that physically difficult, as pandemics do, having alternative ways to stay connected and share experiences is crucial.” It’s a profitable endeavor: year-over-year sales were up 73.3% from May to September 2020. But efforts like the first Super Nintendo World theme park, which opened in March in Osaka, Japan, might face a tougher road until local COVID-19 cases decrease.

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