Most players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons have some kind of daily routine. Start the game, buy or sell turnips, dig up fossils, catch fish and bugs, chat with villagers, chop trees, run from wasps, get a coffee from Brewster, and tidy up the island. The natural progression of the game intends for players to sell items that can be found on the main island and mystery islands that can be visited with Nook Miles. After gamers make money, they can pay off the loans on their home and upgrade it and the surrounding island using the game's currency of Bells. Maxing out a home and an island's rating is nothing short of a grind that can take players months or years. But only if they don't have access to Nintendo Switch Online.

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For Switch owners with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, Animal Crossing: New Horizons can be a completely different game. With it, players can visit the islands of friends through the internet, while those without a subscription can only do so when two Switches are on the same wifi network. Online play also allows players to open their islands up to the public, accessible through the Dodo Airlines service using a Dodo Code. But being able to access any island at any time has led to modders and hackers either selling or giving away items, turnips, and bells, essentially allowing players to skip any grind required to progress in the game.

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Treasure Islands in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The latest trend in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons community is treasure islands. These islands are hosted by players who share their Dodo Codes publicly through Twitch, Discord, or TikTok and invite other players to come and take whatever they would like. Treasure islands are full of a variety of in-game items ranging from collectible furniture sets to high-value items like turnips or even Bells that players can pocket.

Some of these island hosts will charge a fee for players to enter the island, usually asking for Nook Miles Tickets, but with Twitch streamers that isn't usually the case. Streamers will host a completely free treasure island and put the Dodo Code inside their stream chats, requiring other players to open and view the stream in order to access the island. It's certainly a clever way to drive up views and engagement on a stream, but may not be the most ethical. Players that want to take advantage of these islands don't need to bring a single thing — they only need a Nintendo Online membership.

The gamers who are hosting these all-you-can-grab islands didn't exactly grind in the game to get their riches. Treasure islands are generally created through hacking their Animal Crossing copies, a process that players can find guides to all over the internet. Many of these Twitch-centric islands are set up to automatically refill themselves when items get low, allowing the owners to host a 24/7 treasure island along with a 24/7 Twitch stream, racking up views, followers, and donations without having to press a single button.

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Online Buying and Trading

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While these treasure island streams have grown in popularity since New Horizons' recent 2.0 update, players have been thriving with online memberships since the game's release in 2020. The Animal Crossing: New Horizons Discord server has dozens of active channels specific to buying, selling, and trading everything from items to villagers. Players can get in touch with each other and organize a time to visit an island with 300,000 Bells in their pocket, ready to purchase a rare villager that the host has on their island. The ethics of the Discord community are much less grey than those of treasure islands, as these players are generally selling items obtained through normal gameplay for in-game items and currency.

Other external online services like Turnip Exchange and Nookazon are solely dedicated to this same online market. Turnip Exchange allows players to visit islands (usually for an in-game fee) where Timmy and Tommy are purchasing turnips for a high price, providing the opportunity to bring hundreds of turnips and leave with millions of Bells easily. Nookazon is what it sounds like — an Animal Crossing Amazon. If something exists in New Horizons, it's probably available on Nookazon either for free, in an auction, or at a set price. Everything on Nookazon is bought and sold using Bells or Nook Miles Tickets — the only real-life money required is an investment in a Nintendo Switch Online membership.

Some members of the community take issue with the way other players use tools like online play and time traveling, but the practices remain generally harmless. However, the new popularity of these hacking-based treasure islands brings some online-play ethics into question, especially if a streamer is making money off of their views or donations. This is likely, considering how many of the Twitch streams have advertisements attached. Nintendo has taken action in the past, cracking down on players for making real-money transactions for Animal Crossing villagers, explaining that these practices are against the company's terms of service. Treasure island streams may or may not violate those same terms of service, and it remains to be seen if Nintendo will take a stance on the issue.

Subscribing to Nintendo Switch Online is in no way a requirement to succeed in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But players who don't pay the monthly or yearly fee for the service lose access to free tools that make the game significantly easier. Some Nook Miles quests become nearly impossible without it, like the challenge to have six different fruit varieties on your island. Other gameplay aspects like the turnip "stalk market" become much more accessible and lucrative with the membership, giving players access to more Bells earlier on in the game. Still, every player's approach to Animal Crossing is different, and for players interested in the significant benefits of membership the option remains available for a price — and those not interested or able to afford the subscription can still have a great experience in New Horizons.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now for the Nintendo Switch.

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