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Animal Crossing players are paying real money for ‘Treasure Island’ shopping sprees

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Welcome to Treasure Island

Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via NookWizards/Twitter

A visit to an Animal Crossing: New Horizons Treasure Island looks a lot like an episode of Supermarket Sweep — albeit, on a deserted island instead of a grocery store. Instead of supermarket aisles, New Horizons items are piled on green grass and sandy shores, with statues, seasonal items, and Nook Miles Tickets lined up neatly in rows. Are you looking for sea creatures? Those line the beaches. Mushroom items? Those are right in their own, gated-off section. Materials — like leaves, iron ore, and star fragments — are aligned on the opposite coast.

This is a Treasure Island, a New Horizons experience that lets players buy their way into an island that’s stacked with items. New Horizons hustlers have opened stores through eBay and Etsy, with others doing business primarily through Instagram, Twitter, and Discord. While villager trading — ahem, Marshal — was popular early on in New Horizons lifespan, as players looked to fill out their island populations, players are now looking for more. A lot more.

“Some people are scavenging for certain items to make their island paradise, others like the thrill and describe going to the island like going to candy land as a child,” Yobu, from Nook Wizards’ Treasure Islands, told Polygon via Twitter DM. “The experience is different for everyone and they all enjoy it.”

Treasure Island setups have been around since the game launched, but they’ve gained a newfound popularity in recent months; they’re an easy way for players to gather DIY recipes and catalogue items, or for new players to catch up with their friends. However, it’s probably against Nintendo’s terms of service, which prohibits users from monetizing its properties for any purpose aside from videos. That doesn’t seem to be stopping sellers, however, with hundreds of options spread across eBay, Etsy, and social media.

Sellers are offering packages that range from $5 to $50, depending on the time frame and number of trips you’d want to take. For $5, for instance, you’d likely be able to make one trip to a particular Treasure Island — for 10 minutes — in a real frantic rush to stuff your pockets with goodies. Want less game show and more leisure? For $50, you’ll get 20 trips over two hours — enough time to grab hundreds of items for your own island.

Treasure Island creators have various methods of getting these items, most of which include modded Nintendo Switches, item duplication glitches, and time traveling, much like with other “illegal” items. It’s still not easy to get items this way, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than grinding the time needed in collecting them in real-time. Yobu of Nook Wizards said their items are spawned with a modded Switch console.

For some players, it might be hard to imagine why someone would want to spend real-world money on virtual items. But for timed-strapped players, it makes sense — if you can afford it, you can have someone else grind the items for you.

Of course, scams are rampant in New Horizons and, in general, on the internet. If you’re looking to spend real-money on New Horizons experiences, you’ll want to make sure the Treasure Island is legit.