Crossing the Line: How I Helped Corrupt the Animal Crossing Economy

Image: Roland Ingram

Midnight on the pier. I check to see if I’m alone, nervously fumbling in my pocket and counting the money with my fingers. Everything is there: 40 massive bags of coins. Large pocket. I lift the lid of the trash can and empty everything. 4 million bells are erased from the universe and no one will ever know.

How did it happen? Throwing currency in the trash late at night? Well, what you might not know is that Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ game-time materialism has evolved into a greedy underworld subgame with a powerful pull that Nintendo never intended to do. I destroyed my integrity long before the call. I wanted to leave.

Shopping in your hometown

For many people, spring is the time when Animal Crossing is in the air. In those early days of the pandemic, we stuck our heads in the sand of a deserted island for the first time and let the fantasy toss us away. So recently I’ve been itching to return to my old home, confuse visitors with its oddities, and see the new trinkets added in update 2.0.

My favorite site to browse the catalog of games: nookazon – an informal exchange of items for islanders who want to trade, but do not have a private community for this. After all, I can quickly acquire everything listed thanks to my wealth from the 2020 rap boom.

I found that 12 months ago, the value of NMT had halved relative to the market. One reason was predictable, the other unforeseen. However, the third event was so catastrophic that Animal Crossing’s entire economy could collapse.

Surprisingly, there have been a lot of interesting things since I last looked in there, so I started making a shopping list to spruce up my paradise. As always, the pieces of furniture that randomly appeared in the island shop were plentiful and cheap – “cheap” was worth a few hundred thousand bells or so. With tens of millions in the bank, you don’t even think about it.

The villagers, however, remained major status symbols. For an evergreen Raymond, say, bluebells won’t be enough. Difficult to obtain and little used in the game, Nook Miles Tickets emerged early in the game’s life cycle as a high-priced currency. Last year, an inventory of 400 BMT was worth approximately 10 bell inventories – 40 million. Because New Horizons requires you to carry, drop, and pick up your trade currency one inventory slot at a time, as well as fly between islands, disconnecting and reconnecting through the infuriating online game system to upgrade your inventory, the 40 million dollar trade wind chimes has never been acceptable. NMT solved this problem.

Now I know it’s all very far from the slow, lazy activity of “pure” Animal Crossing, so bear with me, but those who play the markets depend on random dozens of several million bells to sustain their mindless shopping practices. As perhaps for the real rich, money means nothing to us – it’s a formality that we have to go through, just getting what we want.

However, I found that 12 months ago, the value of NMT dropped by half compared to the bell. One reason was predictable, the other unforeseen. The third event, however, was such a catastrophic shock that Animal Crossing’s entire economy was about to collapse.

High risk investments

The first reason was that the market was gradually flooded with NMT. Without a specific purpose in the game, NMTs are never used; they just circulate between the players and the supply gradually increases as the players “mint” more by grinding. Meanwhile, the bells are consumed in the game by every player spending millions on mortgages and island development. Once the bells are spent in the game, they go out of circulation, which naturally limits the supply. Anticipating this opportunity back in the boom times, I hedged my capital investment with bells and NMT to reduce risk. It paid off, and this year I returned to a healthy portfolio.

However, an unforeseen change was the automatic bell dispenser. ABD is a new (since version 2.0) ATM element that can be used island visitors. ABD removed island hopping into multi-stock bell trading and made, say, a 12 million bell trade suddenly viable. Purchasing power of the bells has been boosted by sheer practicality, making them more attractive to Noocazone traders, and declining demand for NMT.

So the market stalled at about 50,000 pre-NMT bells, before the third catastrophic event: the treasure islands.

Image: Roland Ingram

Treasure island owners hack into their islands, loading them up with huge stores of coveted merchandise, then opening them up for visitors to fill their pockets (often in exchange for Twitch participation, meaning potential real money). For many, myself included, this crosses the line between manipulating Nintendo’s built-in gameplay and not playing the game at all. Without even going into the economics of Animal Crossing, it undermines the wholesome, hard-working aspirations of comrades in misfortune, beautifully changing furniture.

But it’s pretty intriguing, don’t you think?

Certainly – certainly! – I would never search treasure Island. But, more and more often, they came to me. A merchant hanging around on my island offered a “free” visit. I’ve seen several Nookazon profiles gleefully tagging their bank accounts at 900 million bells. Vibe: “I’m in the club, and you?” Two others offered to pay for large commodity deals with access to a treasure island instead of bells.

As my yearly ACNH enthusiasm waned, I realized that I might never get back into the game this time around. I felt like I should explore the last aspect of its weird and wonderful player community. I crossed the line.

pirate gold

Following instructions in a Nookazon chat from a fellow trader, I entered a dodo tricky code and boarded the plane. Maybe, I thought, my game will be ruined or, one way or another, I will receive merciless retribution. But after exhausting two years of passion for the game, I decided, so be it.

As my yearly ACNH enthusiasm waned, I realized that I might never get back into the game this time around. I felt like I should explore the last aspect of its weird and wonderful player community. I crossed the line.

Treasure Island was a strange place. The terrain has been leveled for neat passageways with items categorized and clearly marked. ACNH’s language is inevitably concrete and tangible: to get the tricky goods, you literally have to walk around and browse.

Another player looked at frog chairs like a pensioner comparing supermarket avocados. But at the behest of my Nookazonian colleague, I skipped all that: I had to go straight to Nook’s Cranny, the island shop, pick exactly one stack of turnips, go there and sell it. The offered price was minus 65 million bells – bankruptcy, for sure! Nothing happened: I pressed “A” and whispered goodbye to Animal Crossing.

But when I got home, I checked the ABD, and indeed: a staggering 999,999,999 bells. I wasn’t sure what to do. With my honest $70 million from commodity trading, money no longer mattered. What’s the difference now? In the end, it was just an interesting experience.

“I think I’m going to pay off someone’s mortgage,” I said in a Nookazon chat. “Okay,” came the reply, “I’m going to buy a 50-foot robot.” There was honesty in this.

When someone came to get my charity they told me all their mortgage that they dreaming repayment, it was – wait – 374,000 bells. What?! What an absurd amount! I often had so much rattling in my pocket after a little shopping. I was embarrassed that the last couple of weeks I could pay mortgages left, right and center. Here I was injecting dirty money into the innocent island economy of stubborn, as intended by Nintendo, players, staining their escapism with my invisible greed, when I could easily have been a real Robin Hood all this time.

There was no way to undo what I had done. Now, if I ever wanted to trade – my favorite part of the game, if you haven’t guessed – I would dump rotten chopped bells into the global pool. Cancel at all. Until…

Coastal Redemption

Throwing a billion wind chimes in the trash is no easy job. With this amazing one-in-one-at-a-time loading system, I had to retrieve, move, and dump 250 lots of 4 million bells in 39 seconds in my pocket. You are doing the math.

Actually, let me know: it’s a three-hour mechanical click.

I don’t know if this act of repentance can equal my absolution, but in any case, it will take more than my billion to save the economy of Nookazon. For now, NMT has soared to last year’s prices. More worryingly, there are dangerously few significant deals. There are so many bells around that no one needs them anymore. People who have hundreds of NMTs to exchange are no longer looking for cash. Most of the large NMT listings request sets of items that sellers are looking for, effectively matching personal purchase requests.

So what’s in store for us in the future? This reduced interchangeability of NMTs will affect their value; gold and wood may return as reliable commodities, or the entire culture of capitalist trade may simply collapse on its own. Perhaps a more humble custom of exchanging items for items will grow out of the rubble—things that will actually be used, not stockpiled. In turn, the treasure islands will lose their appeal as the mere accumulation of wealth is less rewarding.

Image: Roland Ingram

Climbing into the darkest grottoes of greed, I won’t pretend that my own tropical paradise could ever be so innocent, but I hope players with a purer heart stay with the game that Nintendo set out to create.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button