Animal Crossing is a new side hustle for those economically hit by COVID-19

Forget just roaming the islands. Real-world money is being made on the back of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.


You already know that Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the COVID-19 game. It's attracted celebrities and politicians, become a playground for hypebeasts, and been used as a canvas to celebrate gamer culture. Now some intrepid people are even using the game to make ends meet during the coronavirus, Ars Technica reports.

Millions of bells on eBay — A Twitter user named Lexy outlined to Ars Technica in detail how they're using the virtual playground of Animal Crossing to pay real-world bills. Having been laid-off due to COVID-19, Lexy turned a side hustle selling "bells," the in-game currency, into their full-time

People like Lexy are already selling millions of bells on eBay for relatively cheap rates to make ends meet. It works because Nintendo's cutesy game is currently enjoying stunning market success. As Input previously reported, the game has sold at least 5 million units and sold the highest number of digital copies of any title on any console in history in the process.

Side hustle turned full-time job — "I was constantly busy and barely could enjoy my own game," Lexy told Ars Technica. "I do get very little sleep but I think it is worth it. I would spend a good amount of hours on just farming bells via bugs, fish, money trees, hot items, turnips especially ... nowadays I can spend a night just making around 50 [million bells] and that will last me a while since requests have slowed down by a lot."

Lexy says they know this likely won't last forever. "I understand that I will definitely need to get a more consistent paying job. But luckily with the stimulus and the kind [Animal Crossing] community I am afloat for now." Lexy accepts money through CashApp, Venmo, and PayPal.

Time travel for turnips — In order for her turnips not to rot and become useless, Lexy has also engaged in the somewhat controversial practice of "time traveling" in Animal Crossing. The purpose of this moving back, instead of forward? Maximize profits. Time traveling is a much-discussed issue among Animal Crossing players, and it's likely one of the reasons Nintendo — which closely monitors players' behavior — reduce the interest rate at the in-game bank. Previously time travel enabled players to capitalize on compound interest to rake in the (virtual) dough.

Understandable, but risky — Given Lexy's situation involving shaky income and the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, it's understandable that they've has tried to turn this creative outlet into a commercial hustle. But it comes with risks. At it stands, Nintendo hasn't taken any official steps to stop people using Animal Crossing as a tool for generating IRL money. But it could do so at any moment.

Of course, a clampdown by the Japanese company might create a backlash from the game's players, and there's an argument to be made that, at $60 a download for the game, Nintendo's minting enough money itself. Perhaps it will continue to turn a blind eye and players will continue to lap up 12 million bells for the entirely reasonable price of $9.99 on eBay. Lexy and those using the game to keep the wolf from the door must be hoping so.