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Crossing The Line: How I Helped Ruin the Animal Crossing Economy


During the holidays, we are republishing some selection feature from the past 12 months. Compilation of arguments, interviews, opinions and more from NL staff and collaborators, you’ll find our usual blend of thoughtfulness, expertise, vanity, classic nostalgia, and — of course — enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Happy holidays!


first
Photo: Roland Ingram

It was midnight by the pier. I checked to see if I was alone, nervously reaching into my pocket and counting the money with my fingers. It’s all there: 40 big bags of money. Big bag. I flipped the wheelie bin lid over and dumped a lot of trash. 4 million bells are removed from the universe and no one needs to know.

How did it come to this? Shoveling money in the trash late at night? Well, you might not know that Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ playtime materialism has morphed into a greedy, underworld side game with a powerful pull, which Nintendo never planned to do. I lost my integrity long before the bell rang. I want to go out.

home shopping

For many, spring is when Animal Crossing hits the air. The first days of that pandemic were when we first dug our heads into the sand on a deserted island and let our imaginations carry us away. So I recently felt like revisiting my old home, baffling visitors with its quaintness and seeing the newly added trinkets. update 2.0.

My go-to site for browsing the game catalog is nookazon – unofficial item exchange for islanders who want to trade but lack a dedicated community to do so. After all, I can quickly get to anything listed, thanks to my good fortune from the turnip boom in 2020.

I see that since 12 months ago, NMT has halved in value against the bell. One predictable reason, another unforeseen. However, the third event was so disastrous that the entire Animal Crossing economy could collapse.

Surprisingly loads of interesting stuff has come up since I last watched, so I started a shopping list to beautify my paradise. Never before, the furniture items of random origin in the island shop are so abundant and cheap – “cheap” as a few hundred thousand a bell. With tens of millions in the bank, you don’t even think about it.

However, the villagers are still the big ticket status symbols. For an evergreen Raymond, for example, bells will not suffice. Nook Miles tickets – something that is easy to earn and rarely used in the game – appeared very early in the game’s life as a high value currency. Last year, the inventory of 400 NMT was worth about 10 bells of inventory – 40 million. Since New Horizons requires you to bring, drop, and pick up your trade coins one at a time in the inventory and fly between islands, disconnecting and reconnecting through a fun online play system to refresh your warehouse, the 40 million bell deal has never been rentable. NMTs solved that problem.

Now, I know this is all very away from slow, lazy activity in the days of “pure” Animal Crossing, so bear with me, but market players depend on the occasional score of a few million bells to stay afloat their indiscriminate shopping. Perhaps for real-life rich people, money means nothing to us – it’s a technicality that we have to click through while just getting whatever we want.

However, I found that since 12 months ago, NMT has halved in value against the bell. One predictable reason, another unforeseen. The third event, however, was such a catastrophic shock that the entire Animal Crossing economy could be about to collapse.

High risk investment

The first reason is that the market is gradually flooded with NMT. Without much in-game purpose, NMT is never used up; they only rotate between players, with their supply increasing as players “mint” more by grinding. Meanwhile, bells are used by every player in the game, spending millions on mortgages and island development. Once used in the game, the bell will no longer circulate, limiting the supply of course. Having foreseen this situation in the boom days, I hedged my capital investments through bells and NMT to reduce risk. This paid off and I’m back this year with a healthy portfolio.

The unexpected change, however, is the Automatic Ring Dispenser. ABD is a new cash machine item (since version 2.0) that can be used by island tourists. ABD has removed island hopping from multiple inventory and rendering bell deals, such as a possible 12 million bell deal. Bells have increased spending power through sheer practicality, improving their appeal to Nookazon merchants, and reducing the need for NMT.

So the market stabilized at around 50,000 bells for NMT – until the third event, the cataclysm: the “treasure islands”.

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Photo: Roland Ingram

Treasure island owners hack their islands to stock them with desired merchandise, then open the doors for visitors to fill their bags (usually in exchange for Twitch participation). , i.e. real-world potential cash). For many people, myself included, that crosses the line between manipulating Nintendo’s built-in gameplay and not actually playing the game at all. Without even getting into the economics of Animal Crossing, it would undermine the healthy, hard-working aspirations of uniquely displaced friends.

But that’s the kind of attraction, don’t you think?

Of course – Of course! – I will never search a treasure island. But, with more and more frequency, they come to me. A trader out on my island recommended a “free” visit. I’ve seen some Nookazon filings happily recording their $900 million bank balance. Vibe: “I’m in the club – how about you?” Two others offered to pay for large commodity deals with treasure island access instead of bells.

As my annual ACNH enthusiasm waned, I realized that, this time, I might never get back into the game. I feel like I should explore one last aspect of its weird and wonderful community of players. I walked through the line.

pirate gold

Following Nookazon-chat instructions from a fellow trader, I entered a dodgy dodo code and boarded the plane. I thought, maybe my game will break or somehow I will get some kind of merciless punishment. But after two years of my passion for the game was exhausted, I decided, As directed.

As my annual ACNH enthusiasm waned, I realized that, this time, I might never get back into the game. I feel like I should explore one last aspect of its weird and wonderful community of players. I walked through the line.

Treasure Island is a bizarre place. Terrain is leveled to organize items neatly, classified and clearly labeled. The language of ACNH is clearly concrete and tangible: to get dodgy items, you need to literally walk around and browse.

Another player is admiring the frog-shaped chairs like a retiree comparing avocados in the supermarket. But, guided by my colleague Nookazon, I skipped it all: I had to go straight to Nook’s Cranny, the island shop, collect exactly a bunch of radishes, go in, and sell them. The price offered is minus 65 million bells – bankruptcy, for sure! Nothing happens: I press ‘A’ and whisper goodbye to Animal Crossing.

But when I got home, I checked the ABD, and sure enough: a staggering number of 999,999,999. I really don’t know what to do. With my reasonable 70 million from commodity trades, money was not an issue. What’s the difference now? In the end, it was just a fun experience.

“I think I’m going to go pay someone’s mortgage,” I said in the Nookazon chat. “That’s great,” came the reply, “I’ll buy a 50-foot robot.” There is honesty in it.

When someone visits to receive my charity money, they tell me their entire mortgage, that they dreamed of paying the debt, was – wait for it – 374,000 bells. What?! What a ridiculous amount of money! I usually have a lot of stuff like that in my bag after a little shopping. I feel ashamed that I could have paid off my left, right, and center mortgages in the past few weeks. Here, I am pumping dirty money into the innocent island economy of hard-to-match players who, as Nintendo intended, tainted their escapism with my invisible greed, while I have could easily have been a genuine Robin Hood long ago.

There is no way to undo what I did. Now, if I ever wanted to trade — my favorite part of the game, in case you didn’t guess — I’d put rotting hacked bells in the global pool. There is no way to undo it. Unless…

The Redemption of the Coast

Throwing a billion bells in the bin is no small task. Thanks to that cool inventory one-time system, I had to draw, carry and dump 250 lots out of 4 million bells – in 39 seconds for a bag. You do math.

Actually, allow me: that’s three hours of memorizing clicks.

I don’t know if that act of penance will get me pardoned, but in any case, I’ll need over a billion dollars to rescue the Nookazon economy. Up to now, NMT has skyrocketed compared to the price of the previous year. More worrisome is that substantial transactions are dangerously scarce. With so many bells around, no one wants to add them anymore. The type of person with hundreds of NMT to trade is no longer looking for cash. Most large NMT listings ask for collections of items the seller is looking for, which equates to individual shopping requests.

So what does the future hold? This impaired substitution of NMTs will affect their value; Gold and wood could return as trusted commodities, or an entire capitalist commercial culture could collapse on its own. Perhaps from the wreckage will emerge a more modest custom of exchanging things for things – things that are actually used, not hoarded. In return, treasure islands will lose their appeal, as mere accumulation of wealth will yield less benefit.

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Photo: Roland Ingram

After diving into the darkest caves of greed, I won’t pretend that my own tropical paradise can be so innocent, but I hope the purer-hearted players will rest in peace. with the game that Nintendo created.

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