Over the holiday season we’ll be republishing a series of Nintendo Life articles, interviews and other features from the previous twelve months that we consider to be our Best of 2020. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to catch up on pieces you missed, or simply enjoy looking back on a year which did have some highlights — honest!
This feature was originally published in May 2020.
If you’re anything like millions of other global-pandemic-lockdown Switch gamers, you’re on a vicarious head-in-sand holiday in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Strolling the beach, shopping windows, listening to chirping insects and lapping waves… you’ve seen this “Stalk Market” thing – interesting, but wouldn’t it take the heart out of the experience?
You hear the turnips’ calls, from deep in the woods. What might become of you if you followed? Which kind of turnip trader will you become?
Animal Crossing’s about friendship – seasoned with a little materialism, sure – but when you wake up to a letter from Axel the elephant, you feel wanted; like he needs you even more than you need that fifth colourway of the snack vending machine. And when Bangle the tiger gave you that sewing machine? Priceless.
You love all that. But giggles and blushes aside, there is the question of cash flow. After all, the customised wrapped gifts you rush to hand out to your islanders every morning don’t come for free. So how about you grab a bunch of turnips with whatever’s in the kitty on Sunday morning. Stick it in the garden somewhere and wait till the Nook boys make a decent offer. Maybe they’ll drive a hard bargain all week, but that’s part of their charm.
Graham the hamster gets the brush-off when you’re hurrying to catch the turnip seller’s narrow window, but he’ll understand – and he’ll dig that fortune-telling set you’ve picked out for the way back.
Great to set up your friends in style – but don’t you deserve an extra present for yourself now and then as well? You know, give out some gifts of the ‘thought-that-counts’ variety during the week and save up to pop a couple of hundred extra turnips in the yard come Sunday.
Better dig up some of the tulips to make space. Was Katt the cat doing the “Disapproving Look” reaction just then? Is that one of the reactions?
Once you’ve hit a 5x payout on your little turnip pile – Nook’s Cranny deciding they’ll buy at 495 bells per turnip one day – things start to look a bit different. You just put a third room on your house and paid off the loan on the spot. Any fruit-growing or bug-hunting money goes straight into the bank until Turnip Day.
Your islanders now get low-cost gifts of cheery hellos wrapped in promises of shared wealth in just one more week. You’ve fenced off a field and made decorative furrows so your turnips look smart when you line them up. In theory, if you catch the wave just right, you could turn over a million bells in a week.
Slightly annoying that Gwen the penguin thinks she can just walk around on your farm. It’s a place of work, for goodness sake.
When you go in big and score, the endorphins go wild. Money making more money. Who would work for a living? But it’s a shaky income if you’re waiting for the local Nooks to play ball every time.
Enter internet. Late nite Twitter trawls for randoms whose islands have prices over 500. Drug-deal vibes as you load up and fly to a stranger’s hood in the dark. Not sure if it’s a con or a sting. No option, though, if you’ve got four inventories of turnips worth a sweet 8 million.
Expanding that farm field soon got boring. And getting the turnips all neat takes time you could be spending scouring for a score. Now there are just heaps on the beach, in the road, around the pool…. Walker the dog can have his garden furniture back when you get the next couple of weeks done. He lives too near the airport, it’s his problem.
Reddit’s full of tasty turnip prices if you’ve got a few spare “NMTs” – Nook Miles Tickets, which can only be earned, not bought with bells. Hand a couple to your host and they’ll wave you on to their high-rolling Nook’s Cranny. So how about if you leverage your next decent price? (And maybe see what you could do to get a decent price sooner…)
You could be the Good Citizen who welcomes all freely, but no, you’re the Entrepreneur, who takes a sales brokerage of NMTs or a cash cut. (And you could consider being the Actual Entrepreneur, willing to share a Dodo Code for a Venmo payment of $10 US.)
At this stage, turnips are for chumps. You wouldn’t touch the grubby things. A couple of thousand need cleaning up from corners of your island, sure – behind palm trees and houses here and there – but you’ll get to that when you rebuild the barren plains that used to be your warehouses. That elephant seems to like running around there, anyway. What was his name again?
What if – and of course you wouldn’t – but what if you acted the Grifter, who collects a fee then boots from their island because they never had the advertised prices? You imagine being the Twitter Scammer, who demands likes, follows and retweets in exchange for a non-existent Dodo Code to a fictional island. Feeling rather more trollish, you contemplate being the Prankster, who tells the world their friend has prices of 672: just keep DMing them until you get the code.
The #turnips tag on Twitter is now 99% spam. Fans of the actual vegetable must be dismayed.
But enough of that. This isn’t a game anymore. Managing a queue of sellers and keeping track of fees is a slog, so you get a team together. A friend comes to work on your island as a bouncer. You wear uniforms. You have a makeshift gate system, exploiting the behaviour of seats in the game to restrict entry until payments are made.
Bells are basically infinite at this point. Your house is maxed out and stuffed with any exotic treasure you like. Missing something from the catalogue? If you have a price of 500+ then someone will bring it to you, whatever it is. Your island is a gleaming OCD city-state of pristine paths and sparkling street furniture.
Those animal things have all moved house, relocated for your personal aesthetic satisfaction. That sort of stoner dog one sits under one of your ripe money trees.
But really it’s all about the NMTs at this point. #Turnips at 567. 3xNMT. DM for code.
Where’s all this going? What’s the absolute top level? The unburdened sharp point of the pyramid? Where is this course taking you, propelled first by a lust for bell bags then by the endorphin rush of money making more money?
Who are the gods of it all, your heroes, whom you can join in just one more step? They are:
8: The People Trafficker
Having maxed the material possessions of the game, you just want the last gilt touches of the perfect island: the A-list islanders with the fanciest houses. There are ways to trade them, little hypnotist’s tricks that’ll make them think they’re leaving another island and joining yours by their own free will. We’re talking backroom reddit deals with their current owners, briefcases glowing with strapped blocks of blue NMTs.
That’s what those tickets were for! Tom, you sly old raccoon-dog…
You disband your old clique in a heartbeat, ditch the mangey menagerie of has-been chumps and stock up with the it animals of New Horizons. And after all of it, in your retirement, you stroll round your sunny island, wearing your crown, and your elite cohabitants chat small talk with glazed eyes and sleepily pass you presents.
It’s the dearest friendship money can buy.