A hetero-chromatic grey cat is currently being sold on eBay for $600. However, this cat doesn’t exist. Raymond is a virtual villager on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and you can pay real money to move his office onto your island. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice your student loan for Raymond’s snobbish presence, then an in-game transaction is another possibility: a fan-made trading website, Nookazon, prices Raymond at up to 800 Nook Mile Tickets, worth millions of Bells, Animal Crossing’s in-game currency. Lacking bells? Use turnip.exchange to find a high turnip exchange rate on another player’s island. With dedicated websites, servers and hashtags, how has the interconnected digital age inflated a fictional economy?
New Horizon’s economy became so inflated that Nintendo attempted to fix it through an update that ‘nerfed’ the interest gained from the Bank of Nook. However, it seems that irreversible damage has already been done. Even after Nintendo had patched a duplication glitch, ACNH had many routes available to become a bellionaire, and these routes were not secrets.
Possibly due to being released on the brink of the Covid-19 lockdown, New Horizons became March’s best-selling digital game, and broke the record for the most digital units sold in a month. New Statesman attributes this popularity to Animal Crossing’s ‘economic delusion,’ where players can live vicariously through the interest-free, home-owning utopia of their island during a time of worldwide instability. As more players acquire more time, it makes sense that the Animal Crossing fan base has become a large online presence, with dedicated discord servers and websites where players can discuss the game and visit each others’ islands.
Yet, the popularity of Animal Crossing is also partly attributed to its real-time clock. This slows down the gameplay and focuses on the game’s journey rather than its destination, a 5 star island. So, in theory, this makes it the perfect lockdown entertainment. However, through changing the console’s clock, players can essentially speed up the game, a method known in the community as ‘time-travelling.’
Time-travelling allows players to achieve a 5-star island faster: regenerating fruit, catching time-specific bugs and fish, and moving out unwanted villagers can all be achieved through manipulating the settings option.
So, where does Raymond fit into all this? With beautiful islands being showcased throughout social media, it is undeniable that there is social pressure to sculpt an aesthetically-pleasing island, with cute islanders to match.
Raymond embodies this need for digital perfection. If you regularly visit utopian islands to trade turnips, you feel the need to have a perfect island in order to host. Through hosting a server, it is etiquette to give the host a tip, such as an item or some bells, and through the host’s newly-attributed wealth, the cycle continues. This dedication spills into real-life currency:
Despite Nintendo’s efforts, the inter-connectedness of social media allows players to accumulate more bells, faster. The game that was intended to be a slow-burner quickly became a speed-run, and has left players feeling a little underwhelmed as a result. As Nintendo has been slowly adding new features from New Horizons‘s predecessors, it will be interesting to see how Nintendo intend to keep players engaged and entertained, after many players have already reached an end point.