The Animal Crossing franchise has become quite the sales sensation for Nintendo, with Animal Crossing: Wild World, the latest installment in the series, moving nearly if not over four million copies to date in Japan alone. Given success like this, it's a no-brainer that Nintendo is working on another entry in the series for Wii.

But there's a problem here. Animal Crossing isn't the kind of game that you can just release sequels to like a Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda installment. By design, you can play Animal Crossing for a very long time. Some play for months, others for years. There's no goal that you reach that ends the game. There's no period of longing where you feel worked up for a sequel. And as a result, you must ask yourself as a consumer: is the sequel actually offering me enough new features to justify buying a new game and potentially starting my virtual life over from scratch?

For Animal Crossing: Wild World, the answers were pretty clear-cut: it was on the Nintendo DS, so it was portable; and it also offered online play (albeit limited). The potential of those two features offered so much that the game became a killer purchase even though Nintendo hardly touched the original Animal Crossing's gameplay. Sure, they added a smattering of new features, but if they really do expect Animal Crossing players to jump at a Wii installment, which takes away their portable play, what do they propose to add to make it a worthwhile—and new, for those bored of the usual Animal Crossing life—experience?

For this, I sat down and gave some thought to what a sequel to Animal Crossing could offer us to make it a compelling proposition, and even just plain tossed in a few random ideas that would be neat to see.

We're Open All Night

WiiConnect24 has the potential to open up some real possibilities for Animal Crossing. Of course, we've already had a taste of the message board functionality, and trading levels in Elebits, but there's one thing that Animal Crossing in particular could take advantage of, should Nintendo opt to go down that road: letting you leave your town gates open 24/7, while your Wii is sleeping.

The prospect is enticing, to say the least. Several Wild World players tried to accomplish just this with the DS but found crashes and limitations of the system just made it unworkable. Wii has no such problem; it's literally been designed to be online all the time. So now that we've got the building blocks in place, what can visitors expect to do in a town where the residents are quite possibly sleeping?

The vacation home is an idea which I actually originally thought up for Wild World, but it suffered one key flaw there: you simply wouldn't have access to it unless your friends were online with their own copies of the game. But with a town that's open all night, you can visit any time you like. You'd buy a vacation home in some unused plot in your friend's town, and be able to treat it as a literal home-away-from-home, doing everything to it you would do to your own real home back in your own town. Decorate it, show it off, invite friends and animals over, you name it. It's your little plot of land, even if it's not your town.

A perpetually-connected network of towns introduces another possibility for the age-old pastime of playing the stalk market. Joan could finally shed that passé outfit of hers and join the high-powered world of finance as your turnip stockbroker. She'd keep track of turnip prices in your friends' towns for you, and offer to buy your stash at a particular going price (for a fee, of course). Towns could even obey the laws of supply and demand with an interconnected network of this kind, letting the price drop with a sudden market flood rather than building instant millionaires.

Continuing with the capitalism theme, why not set up shops for your friends (both in-town and out) to visit? Compete with Nook, offering up goods to anyone who drops by—for a price. Maybe even give your resident animal friends a little spending money to man the store for you, giving them permission to haggle with visitors to try to offload that persistent inventory.

Also, when you're around to see your friends, it's easy to say "okay, guys, fishing competition, starting now"—but maybe you'd like to hold a competition for all the friends who might drop by for a day. Tortimer could (perhaps for a fee) let you set up your own competitions, decide whether to invite your animal friends, and keep score for you over the course of a day.

Decoration Inside & Out

While it's been a key goal of Animal Crossing games to expand your house in the fixed fashion Tom Nook allows, the modern forest resident wants more. Animal Crossing Wii should allow you to lay out your own house how you see fit, carving off rooms and such to your heart's content. There will be a cost associated, of course; you don't get to remodel for free, especially since it will go ahead and replace the old mortgage tree Nook once offered.

Now that we've got all these walls, what to do with them? Expand the simplistic pattern wallpaper design and make the entire wall your canvas if you want. Hang your own artwork or photos on the walls, for example. Put windows in to let light in. Attach light fixtures to the walls to create that perfect ambiance.

Paying all this attention to your home's interior is one thing, but a new Animal Crossing game should also let you expand into the garden—and not just with trees and flowers. One friend once remarked that he wanted to create a "shrub maze" and challenge people to make their way through it. All manner of outdoor plants, rocks, and fixtures like fountains and birdbaths should be at your disposal to arrange however you see fit. One other home-decor possibility involves those seasonal decorations that just pop up with the holidays. Why not let you string your own Christmas lights, and leave them up all year (to your neighbors' annoyance)?

While we're at the decoration possibilities, perhaps it's time we let the animal residents of your town participate as well. Why are you the only one with an axe to swing? With the interest the other residents have in your perfect town, why don't they, over time, work toward the same goal? Perhaps the game could even take it a step further and give you a resident who enjoyed planting weeds and leaving stumps around—someone you might have to get up in the middle of the night, armed with a torch-wielding mob, and run out of town.