An Inside Look At 'Animal Crossing's discord' Black Market Trade Communities

 A white and pink "Cute Vanity" sells for 5,400 bells at Nook's Cranny. The average price on Nookazon is 100,000, a few Nook Mile Tickets, or an item from the seller's wishlist.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons probably hasn't entered your mind because you don't play it. This price will probably make you appalled if you play. For those not familiar with the game, bells are its currency. Players can only buy Nook Mile Tickets with points they earn from completing certain tasks. These tickets allow them to visit randomized "mystery" islands that are full of valuable resources. Players may encounter rare characters on those islands and ask them to move into their villages if they are lucky.


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While many states have implemented stay-at-home orders, Nintendo released the most recent Animal Crossing version. Upon its release on Mar. 20, it not only outsold any Mario or Zelda game, but it also inspired hundreds of thousands of people to finally purchase a Nintendo Switch. GameStop, Target, and Amazon are still having difficulty selling the console worldwide, which correlates directly to the release of the game.


The Animal Crossing games. since 2001, they have come with every Nintendo console. There is no such thing as "winning" in Animal Crossing. The objective remains the same for both versions: learn about the local villagers, experience life, and repay Tom Nook, who seems to own every industry imaginable in the game.


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Animal Crossing purists insist that playing slowly, accumulating wealth, nurturing friendships with the game's characters, and savoring each moment is what makes the game so enjoyable, however New Horizons is more of a hustle. Players developed Discord channels and Facebook groups centered around buying, selling, and trading desired items. Many of these forums are moderated by unpaid volunteers, but they are often too chaotic to search effectively.


Daniel Luu launched Nookazon two weeks after New Horizons was released. She was frustrated with the unintuitive nature of the trade communities after just beginning to play. To keep track of the items available in the game, he made a searchable database named Amazon.



Each listing includes the seller's Discord account, so buyers can message them directly, see reviews from other buyers, and see how they prefer to pay in-game. The public wishlist on Nookazon can also be updated. The site allows sellers to post links directly to the Discord server's range of channels, where items can be traded, villagers reported, and server announcements discussed. After running for a month, Nookazon has grown to a thriving community of over 7,000 users.


Luu told me in a phone call that people are so interested in buying and selling because they want to build their dream homes. As social media and the internet have grown in popularity, people feel they can get items more easily.


Building your dream island

Streamers of a YouTube channel dedicated to showcasing 5-star Animal Crossing islands, like Minnie Ng, 24, frequent Discord servers like Nookazon and TagBackTV. She purchased a turquoise unicorn for Julian as her "most exciting" purchase. Her bidding process was intense; she started at 3 million bells and ultimately beat out the other buyer. The "only unicorn" in the game and "he was having a cute house" made Julian's 12.5 million bells worth it because of his cute house and that he was the seller's.


Ng said in a Twitter Direct Message that he had to travel to Julian's island four times because he was only able to carry 4 [million] each time.


To give you a sense of scale, fruit native to the island cost 100 bells. In general, players expect to profit 500 bells when selling fruit from another island. Those who plant fruit and harvest it can earn a few hundred thousand bells a week.


Making money off of villagers gives sellers an opportunity to build the island of their dreams.


Raymond and Rowan Corless, a 19-year-old student, met by chance during a trip to the mystery island. Nookazon and other online trade groups have become well known for the bespectacled heterochromatic cat. Though she did not want this feline on her island, she did know that she could make a profit if she sold him. Rowan hopes to use Raymond to purchase villagers, send funds to friends, and customize her own island since his starting price is on average 15 million bells or 100 Nook Mile Tickets. As he's a new character, he does not have an Amiibo - a figurine that a player can use to invite a specific character to live at their island. In other words, you can only encounter him by chance or trade with him through other players.


Corless stated that his unique appearance, including his differently colored eyes, contributes to the charm of him, explaining that he has a semi-hipster vibe. The reason he commands such high prices is that he is limited in availability, which makes people think he is a rarity.


The selling process is complicated, as Raymond has to leave her island after being invited to live there. In that case, Nookazon would post him on its website and Discord server for people to bid on. A Dodo Code will be sent to the highest bidder, which allows each player to visit the other's island without becoming friends. When the buyer visits the island of the seller, they will pack their inventory with bells.


 Buying a large number of bells will likely require multiple trips to Rowan's island because she cannot transport that many bells at once. Once they've made sufficient payment, they can visit Raymond's house and invite him to live on their island.


Rowan said it's a process that requires parties to trust each other when they are making multiple trips together.


"People don't want to give their bells without [the] promise of Raymond, and in the same vein people don't want to give Raymond without ensuring their payment," Rowan explained. For my part, I always check the buyer's reviews to see if anyone has said anything negative about them, and if I do find anything (which I have yet to do) I will pursue a different buyer for security reasons.


Among Nookazon's options for reporting scammers are the community's own channels and a set of strict rules regarding how members can use its various channels.


A "capitalist nightmare"


Nookazon, however, isn't beloved by everyone - critics claim it turns the beloved game into a greedy, capitalist nightmare. Animal Crossing isn't about grinding for rewards like Vice's Gita Jackson said; it's about savoring the slow rewards. I find it somewhat sour that you can obtain items instantly, instead of waiting for them to fall from trees or appear in your island's shop.


Kia, a 15-year-old student who requested to not be identified by her last name, said most Nookazon sellers are greedy. Her dream is to create a "city district" on her island, so she is looking for lighting that will mimic the vibe of a busy downtown. There would be no better fit for the theme than glowing drink machines.


Kia told Mashable in a Twitter DM that she went to Nookazon to see what people were offering, and they were charging a lot of NMTs [Nook Mile Tickets] and bells for a single drink machine. At that time, the cheapest item was going for 750,000 bells. I thought, "Why are people charging that much for the item?"?"


Luu and the other charitable Nookazon team members began adding the average price to each listing in order to discourage vultures. Despite Ng, who bought the blue unicorn, not being an Animal Crossing purist - she freely time travels, another controversial topic in the Animal Crossing community because it's considered cheating - there are limits to how far she will go. She does technically cheat, but she does it for the benefit of friends. For example, if the turnip rate is high, she'll turn back time so her friends can take advantage of "stalk markets.".


In her opinion, charging an absurd amount of money for nook mile tickets or charging absurd prices is distasteful, since they lose their value over time.


Not every seller is terrible


The vast majority of Nookazon's sellers are not resource-hungry vultures. Throughout her grieving process, Rebecca Britt, 37, found the community to be incredibly supportive.


She was persuaded to purchase Animal Crossing: New Horizons by her friend Carol last month. Soon after, Carol unexpectedly passed away. Britt was unable to attend Carol's funeral due to stay-at-home orders.


To honor her friend of 24 years, Britt began building a memorial to Carol on her island.


Britt said that the Discord has helped with feeling helpless, especially since she is in St. Louis and I am in South Texas. With the quarantine, I was unable to attend the funeral, so this is at least a way to stay in touch with her. The last time we spoke was through the Nintendo app for Animal Crossing."


She looked on Nookazon for a player who could craft her a "Western-style Stone," a headstone that players can only make if they possess the DIY recipe. In spite of the seller's "kindness" and refusal to take payment, she ended up with the book. The extra materials Britt found she gave him to take part in making headstones for other players building in-game memorials.


With terraforming and lanterns lining both sides of the pathway, Britt created a pathway surrounded by waterfalls. Along the path there is a glowing moon, a flower display, and a gravestone engraved with Carol's name. Carol's photo and a character from Animal Crossing were displayed on easels to the right. Carol's resting place is surrounded by flowers of a unique color or hybrid that must be specially bred for that color.


Nookazon makes the game more fun


Nookazon can't be criticized without being hypocritical. When I was in quarantine, I missed a beloved local diner, and I began collecting vintage-inspired diner furniture as an attempt to recreate it. Friend also gifted me red vinyl booths and a matching light-up sign to match the red counter and jukebox. One of the most important pieces I had missed was a table and counter stools.


It could have appeared in my shop, or a friend could have sent it to me if they saw it in theirs. However, I was impatient, and the thought of waiting weeks for this virtual restaurant to be completed was unbearable. In the end, I bought a cream diner table for 30,000 bells and a matching diner counter stool for one Nook Mile Ticket. Other players are willing to pay more outrageous prices for rare items. Those prices were tame compared to those other players would pay. In my experience, it was a hit to my in-game wallet even when I was a relatively new player.


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