Shortly after noon on a Tuesday, I popped into Animal Crossing: New Horizons to check on turnip prices. Today’s number? A tasty 439 bells, four times the price I picked them up for. I turned a profit worth hundreds of thousands, invited friends to come by, and then decided to go one step further: offer access to my island via a shareable code, which I broadcasted on Twitter. It was instant chaos.
One of the riskier ways to turn a profit in New Horizons involves playing the “stalk” market — buying turnips on Sundays before noon and then figuring out what day is your best chance to sell them. Wait too long (or attempt to cheat by changing your Switch’s date settings to time-travel), and they’ll rot. Prices change twice a day, every day. It’s the gambler’s dilemma: hold out for a higher price point and better profits, or quit while you’re ahead. Anyone with an island boasting high prices is, for a short period of time, a golden goose.
This was the enviable position I found myself in, and it was incredibly, undeniably gratifying. “I’m the prettiest girl at the party,” I joked to a friend while co-workers swarmed my island like a beach in July. They sold their rootstock, left gifts, and asked if they could share with friends. The entire experience felt so good — a wholesome offering to the people I miss, a bright spot in otherwise troubled days — that I craved a bigger dopamine hit. Twitter is the only dealer I have left these days for a quick high. I typed out a tweet with my island’s prices, stipulated a few rules (be nice, don’t take anything besides fruit, seriously please be nice), and hit send. Almost immediately, my game pinged to tell me someone was on the way.
For the next hour, strangers waited in a virtual line for a flight to my island. New Horizons caps capacity at eight people. It also insists that every player present must watch an on-screen announcement every time someone new arrives, which means the process can be slow and painful for everyone involved. If you want to sell your turnips, you need to be a little more than patient.
And then there’s an element of trust you give to visitors that they won’t wreck your safe little bubble. Nintendo has anti-griefing measures that won’t allow players to use shovels or axes without permission, which can prevent people from digging holes or chopping down trees; that still won’t stop them from stealing things, stripping all of your resources, or trampling your flowers. The common wisdom from friends: do not let strangers in. Here is anecdotal evidence about a friend of a friend whose island was pillaged and razed.
In my case, I was shocked by how well-behaved everyone was. I parked my villager on a stump near the airport and let people filter in and out while my game sat unattended. Instead of dumping trash or raiding my orchards, players left little presents for me: board games, Godzilla statues, hats. A generous stranger left a tip of 99,000 bells directly in front of me that, miraculously, no one pocketed. Others snapped friendly pictures posing with my character. (One player did enter my house to flop down in my bed and send me a picture after. Perverted.) When I checked my bulletin board, expecting graffiti of dicks, people had instead drawn little turnips or left thank you notes. It left me feeling peaceful, the sort of warm fuzzies you get when strangers show you kindness they didn’t have to give at all.
My connection eventually crashed, and everyone was booted back to their own islands. The cheerful pings announcing new arrivals stopped, and I knew that, in a few hours, my prices would turn again. Suddenly, I felt a little lonely.