Tales From The Quarantine: People Are Selling 'Animal Crossing' Bells For Real Cash After Layoffs

from the 2020-is-deeply-strange dept

This seems to be something of a thing. Our last “Tales From the Quarantine” post focused on how television celebrities had taken to offering people help on Twitter with their virtual home decor in the latest Animal Crossing game. This post also involves Animal Crossing, but in a much more direct way. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are enormous numbers of people who have suddenly found themselves without jobs or regular income. And, so, they’ve turned to irregular sources of income instead.

Ars Technica has an interesting interview with one of many people who have taken to the internet to indirectly sell Animal Crossing‘s “bells”, the currency of the game.

In the midst of COVID-19, some New Horizons players are turning to World of Warcraft-style gold farming methods to make ends meet. In early April, Lexy, a 23-year-old recent college grad, created a Twitter account offering up bells (Animal Crossing’s in-game currency) for real-world cash (she requested we refer to her by a nickname to avoid potential reprisal from Nintendo). “I got laid off due to COVID so I’m farming bells in ACNH,” she wrote. “I really need to make rent this month so I’m selling 2 mil bells per $5, please message me if interested, I’ll give you a discount the more you buy.”

Before setting up this unorthodox income stream, Lexy had been working at a supermarket while developing her animation portfolio. She began exploring the idea of turning bells into cash after showing friends just how much in-game income she’d been making. “One of them asked to legitimately buy some for me,” she recalled in a Twitter interview. “I did some research and found some people selling bells on sites such as eBay, but for pretty ridiculous prices.” (Current prices on eBay seem more competitive, with some sellers offering rare gold tools and gold nuggets to sweeten the deal).

The threat from Nintendo is probably real. After all, unlike some other games where people do this sort of thing, Nintendo’s game doesn’t include any method for selling in-game resources for real currency. Nintendo is also notoriously prudish about things like this. And, finally, to make an effective go at this sort of thing, it takes some manipulation of the console in a way that is somewhat controversial with gamers generally.

Understandably, Lexy adjusts the clock on her Nintendo Switch to speed up the game’s slow, “natural” money-making cycle of harvesting daily fruit, digging up bells from the ground, and planting a daily “money tree” that can yield big profits. This kind of in-game “time traveling” is controversial practice among casual Animal Crossing players, but it’s a practical necessity to maximize real-world bell-farming profits.

As for how much money people like Lexy are bringing in, it’s in the four figures, but she wasn’t any more specific than that. Payments are made through digital apps like PayPal, after which she visits the game islands of others and deposits the bells.

That all of this is going on during a global pandemic that has some folks farming bells to make ends meet and others with apparently enough disposable income to be buyers is all, of course, deeply strange. But it’s also just yet another way technology is having an impact on our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Companies: nintendo

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Comments on “Tales From The Quarantine: People Are Selling 'Animal Crossing' Bells For Real Cash After Layoffs”

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10 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

If she’s adjusting the clock between connections, Nintendo can probably add a few patches, to the OS and/or the game to detect that, and then ban her.

As the article says, Nintendo gets really pissy if people don’t play in their sandbox in a Nintendo approved way.

I hope she’s able to find a little bit more of a stable income (since I suspect people are salivating at taking her current one away from her).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, I hope she got some stashed away and/or got paid enough for her story that it makes up for her losing her new revenue stream.

"If she’s adjusting the clock between connections, Nintendo can probably add a few patches, to the OS and/or the game to detect that, and then ban her."

I don’t play the game myself, but I’ve heard it’s not uncommon for players to adjust the clock for more allowable reasons (for example, in-game shops have opening and closing times that track with local time, meaning that some players who work those hours IRL may never see the shop open). My impression is that Nintendo didn’t really mind as it doesn’t really affect the game for other players, but I’d imagine they crack down on that and/or more greatly restrict the in-game transfers if they’re being abused.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

My impression is that Nintendo didn’t really mind as it doesn’t really affect the game for other players

If there is anything at all competitive about Animal Crossing or there is a shared economy (I have no idea as I don’t play that game) then it absolutely does affect other players. Buying currency as a shortcut to becoming more competitive or the effect such currency generation has on the economy are enough to doom a game to failure. It’s happened before, many times.

But again, I have no idea if this game has either of those features.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

My understanding is that it’s not really a competitive experience, with the community aspect being more about sharing how you’ve built the villages, and the motivation to buy currency is more about patience than anything else. It’s less an MMORPG type experience and more Farmville without screens nagging you to pay more money since you paid full price up front.

But, again, not being a player myself I’m only going from what I’ve heard various people saying about it on social media and podcasts.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It’s less an MMORPG type experience and more Farmville without screens nagging you to pay more money since you paid full price up front.

That’s pretty much it. Getting more bells means you can pay back your loans for getting a house quicker, purchase pricier and more furniture, and purchase more clothes. Since the only online interaction in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is visiting the islands of your "friends" (i.e. "friends" who you have on your friend list by means of friend code or swapping card suits on each others’ Nintendo Switches then verifying once there’s an internet connection), there’s really not a big incentive for Nintendo to stop this cheating as there’s no harm to the game economy. The game is connected online, but it’s not massively multiplayer and online.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'That's awesome, I wonder if I can do that?'

there’s really not a big incentive for Nintendo to stop this cheating as there’s no harm to the game economy.

Other than Nintendo being Nintendo(that is control-freaks) there’s actually an incentive for them not to crack down on that ‘cheating’, as it allows people to make their islands look better quicker, drawing more attention to the game as they show those islands off and potentially bringing in more players as a result.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If Nintendo were to ban based on time traveling, you’d have a large group of players angry over it, as the game would be effectively rendered worthless to them. Not everyone plays games the way "developers intended." Just look at speedrunning for example. Animal Crossing is no different.

Further, you can’t possibly tell me that if time travel were possible in reality with little to no real consequences other than a few weeds here and there, that people would avoid it due to some self determined view of correctness. They’d abuse the living heck out of it. Far more than the Animal Crossing players ever could.

This "controversy" is a fabrication. Someone time traveled to get some more bells or items? Why should anyone care? The whole point to multiplayer in Animal Crossing is to see and interact with others and to have a chance at discovering something new. Just because the game was manipulated into giving something to someone else earlier than normal doesn’t take away from the experience. Hell in real life, they could have had crap laying around from years prior. (Those Christmas tree lights still up on your roof?) Are you going to demand that God come down and ban them from reality for violating your self determined version of their entitlement? If so, you have far worse problems to address than someone with stuff or status you think is "illegitimate."

TL; DR: Get over it, and if you can’t then stop playing with them.

Sidenote: Nintendo has a lot of telemetry built into Animal Crossing specifically. According to some research done by fans, there’s even program text hashing that gets sent to Nintendo to notify them of code injection or alteration of static data. (Ala. Action Replay / Gecko style codes.) Nintendo probably can detect time-traveling very easily with what they have already in place. Heck the special events require not just the system time to be correct, but Nintendo also has to send out a enable flag via the online BCAT functionality to make the events actually start. There’s probably very little Nintendo would have to change to make the game check the network time instead and refuse to run if the network time couldn’t be fetched.

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thomas melendez says:

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