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.