The "Top 10 FAQ Pages" on GameFAQs.com are a great way to see what people are actually playing (for example, years after its release, people were still trying to figure out how exactly to optimally cross-dress in Final Fantasy VII).
Scratching my head and reaching back to solve the troubles of the citizens of NeverWinter, I remembered that I had heard about AC at E3 2001. Animal Crossing seemed to me then a provocative move by Nintendo - they were building in NES emulation, cramming old Nintendo games in the shell of another game. Why not capitalize on your library of games for people who might otherwise download them? But reading about Animal Crossing, it seems like the game has more than that to offer. Similarly, Shenmue offered emulation of old Sega games, but I spent a lot more time driving forklifts and running between the jacket-shop and the fish market than I did playing Space Harrier.