Back in May, we wrote about something of an economy springing up around Nintendo’s hit game Animal Crossing. With so many folks enduring the hardships of layoffs, or unable to find work, it turns out there are people making very real world money selling in-game assets and collecting payment outside of Nintendo’s platform, which doesn’t have a method for these types of transactions. This sort of thing fascinates me on many levels, perhaps mostly in how nearly perfectly this highlights the reality of income disparity in America. Some folks have to farm digital bells to make money by selling them to people with enough money to buy them.
But we also mentioned in that post that Nintendo is notoriously protective over how its games are played and used. On top of that, the only real way to be effective in this economy is to screw around with the clock and timer settings on the console itself to speed up the harvesting process. That, too, is the sort of thing that normally gets Nintendo’s fur up. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that Nintendo has pointed out recently that all of this violates its Terms of Service, though the company has remained cryptic as to exactly what it plans to do about it.
Nintendo has strictly defined rules about monetization. As clearly stated on the network services guidelines, Nintendo writes, “You may monetize your videos and channels using the monetization methods separately specified by Nintendo. Other forms of monetization of our intellectual property for commercial purposes are not permitted.”
One presumes the same would be true for in-game assets like Animal Crossing’s bells. As stated, Nintendo has a reputation for this… but should the company drop the hammer on this sort of behavior? I’ve put some thought into this and I can’t really come up with a systemic major problem that is or could be caused by this emergent economy springing up around a game like this. How much does this break the game’s community, given that there is clearly a demand from players for buying these assets? And how much interest in the game is built on players knowing they have an outlet for progression through these purchases?
Interesting as those questions may be, Nintendo doesn’t typically come off as though it engages in this type of self-interrogation. Instead, the company sees something happening outside of its control, has a visceral reaction to that something, and reacts with a heavy hand. Note that the quote from the Nintendo rep above says Nintendo is deciding what to do about all of this, not whether it should do anything at all. Which is too bad.