Yes, the political reading of New Horizons is worse than in any game prior. At the same time, this allows for much more interesting gameplay and longevity.
Tom Nook’s case though, is open-and-shut. He goes from petit-bourgeois small business capitalist and landlord to straight up implied mega-conglomerate Nook Inc. owning Jeff Bezos-style capitalist, that buys (or simply takes?) land, because he smells “untapped markets” (like it was succinctly put in the podcast) in which he sells presumably city-dwellers, the modern dream of building a community from scratch in some tropical paradise.
This community though, will of course not be completely free to develop how it wants, but will be neatly trapped inside the framework of social-relations he sets up in advance (still money, still markets even with his own currency and services). The colonial undertones are just the cherry on top.
He deserves nothing but our scorn! cough and the guillotine cough
Maybe this project is also a way for him to finally fulfill his dream of creating his own quasi-company town. That’s just me spitballing though.
Back to the real world:
It’s obvious that Nintendo doesn’t really put much thought into Animal Crossing’s world. It’s supposed to be a fun escape, that puts you straight into your comfort zone, which means: We, as good, modern, bourgeois subjects, get to experience the idyllic village/town life of our dreams, away from the turmoil and ugliness of the big city. And of course without all the bad aspects of capitalism, even though we still live, evidently, in capitalism. Nothing of that has changed with New Horizons, but it got even more expanded and refined, by having (at least initially) a ‘back to the land’ aspect to it, making the escape and wish fulfillment so much more powerful.
It really is no wonder that Animal Crossing is so popular.
If you will excuse me now, I have to get back to fighting with myself over if I should pre-order this game or not.