Animal Crossing Finds a Black Market on Ebay
The video game industry is no stranger to the “pay-to-play” market. While gamers are accustomed to loot boxes, season passes, and other optional content, Nintendo has largely avoided these “freemium” models. However, players of a popular Nintendo franchise have begun to exploit an obvious void. On Friday, we discovered that fans of Animal Crossing New Horizons had taken to eBay to buy and sell the game’s most important resource: bells.
The Dirty Underground
The resale market for high demand items is not new. During periods of resource scarcity, people of all backgrounds routinely succumb to exploitation and arbitrage for personal gain. While the recent examples of toilet paper and hand sanitizer are typical during a pandemic, we never expected to witness such a phenomenon in a video game.
But as we browsed the secondary market for another copy of Animal Crossing New Horizons, we stumbled upon a startling revelation. Multiples sellers on eBay and other secondary auction sites have active listings for the in-game currency of bells. This discovery was startling because players can earn all Animal Crossing currency by simply playing the game. So we decided to dig a little deeper.
Peeling Back the Onion
Believing this practice to be isolated to a few sellers, we initially ignored the evidence. But as we continued to monitor eBay, we found that the number of Animal Crossing sellers grew. While several merchants sold the physical game cartridge, many more began to sell the in-game currency of bells. Here are a few examples.
Seller “Pokefactory” is currently offering a bag of 99,000 bells for $0.99. As buyers select more “bags”, the price per bag decreases. For the low price of $29.99, a player can buy 120 bags, which equates to 11.8 million bells. So far Pokefactory has sold to almost 500 people.
In an attempt to undercut the Pokefactory, seller “teransales” offers a simpler approach. For the “low” price of $19.99, players can acquire an even 12 million bells. Although his offer is less popular, teransales’ site is averaging 213 viewers per hour.
Finally, seller “zruster” is offering a unique proposition: teaching the “fisherman” how to “fish”. Instead of selling bells, zruster is selling an advanced method for earning bells. Zruster sells recipes for golden tools as well as the resources needed to construct these elite assets. For the low price of $3.99, players can acquire golden recipes for their favorite in-game tools. In addition, players can spend $5.99 to buy 30 golden nuggets, which can be used to craft golden tools. So far almost 99 people have purchased items from zruster’s store, and over 95 people per hour are viewing his site.
What does it all mean? And why would people purchase in-game assets that they could freely acquire by playing the game? These are questions that do not have definitive answers. While the reasons likely differ amongst gamers, we can make a few assumptions:
- Acquiring a large amount of bells in the early stages of the game allows players quickly expand their homes. By expanding their homes, players have access to increased storage and items.
- Large volumes of bells afford players the opportunity to purchase a multitude of items from Nooks Cranny, the Clothing Shop, Campsite, Mabel’s Shop, and other venues.
While players can tie the purchase of bells to items or home upgrades, the real value that is being purchased is time. Players are spending real money on eBay and other auction sites to forego countless hours of grinding for valuable resources. By doing so, players earn the benefit of island upgrades without the blood, sweat, and tears. Is this ethical, moral, and legal? Maybe. But so long as the Animal Crossing community embraces the ethos of “keeping up with the ‘Jones'”, players will continue to cut corners by buying resources from real life merchants.
As more Animal Crossing fans buy the game, eBay and other auction sites will continue to continue to offer players easy access to the game’s content. While a secondary market for in-game currency is unnecessary, the industry is closely monitoring Nintendo for potential retaliation. But we want to know what you think. Did you buy Animal Crossing after the launch date? If so, did you buy bells or any other in-game currency from eBay? Let us know in the comments below or the social media links on the right. Also, be sure to check out our other news items on Pokemon, Modern Warfare, Capcom, Blizzard and more.
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