Animal Crossing New Horizons Stalk Market

If you've been playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons a lot lately then you'll no doubt be familiar with the "Stalk Market" – the act of buying up turnips in-game and selling them for a bumper profit before they turn bad.

According to a new report by Bloomberg, this process is giving gamers a taste of real share trading, and they're using the same skills to make actual money. Take 24-year-old commercial property manager Angie Fung, as an example. She became so focused on making bells in the game that her boyfriend suggested she try real-world stocks and shares.

"That was the aha! moment," she tells Bloomberg. "They’re kind of the same thing, concept-wise." Fung invested around $1,000 in cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks Inc., Nvidia Corp. and payments processor Square Inc, as well as putting some cash into COVID-related penny stocks. "Now I’m like, ‘I’m going to drop a thousand dollars on this random stock.’ It doesn’t feel like it’s real money. I’m not emotionally attached to my money because I started off from a video game."

Student Jessica Amado also claims that playing the turnip market has taught her a lot about the art of buying and selling shares. Her father – upon discovering she was trading turnips in Animal Crossing – gave her $120 to invest in real-world stocks. After buying up 20 shares of Plug Power Inc. earlier this year at $5.60 a pop, she unloaded them once the share value passed $10, bagging herself around $100 profit.

Just like in Animal Crossing, picking the right time to sell is important; the Plug Power shares have continued to rise since she sold her shares, which means Amado has missed out on even higher earnings. “I do wish I held on to it longer," she tells Bloomberg. "But I don’t regret it really because a profit is a profit after all. It was a good decision at the time when money was hard to come by during quarantine.”

John Poelking, a senior gaming analyst at Mintel, feels that there are some key similarities between video games like Animal Crossing and share trading. "The stakes are a lot different because it’s in-game currency versus real-world currency, but it’s still an investment. You feel hurt when you lose out on in-game currency. Even though it’s not real, it feels real to you."

Indeed, robo-advisory firm Betterment has even gone as far as to use Nintendo's best-selling life sim to communicate basic trading concepts, such as supply and demand, arbitrage, and how to assess the value of stocks. According to Betterment, the game shows that short-term investments carry risk and that keeping your eye on your "portfolio" is a lot of work. It also claims that Animal Crossing showcases why a diverse portfolio of investments is sensible.

However, not all lessons in Animal Crossing transfer to the real world. Software engineer Kurt Boyer created an algorithm to predict turnip prices for Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and he felt that what he had learned would help him make real money – but (perhaps unsurprisingly) it wasn't quite as simple as that. "In Animal Crossing, there are patterns you will see and they indicate 100% of the time what will happen the next time the price changes. In the real stock market, there are hundreds if not thousands of patterns that traders study and with each pattern, there is a chance that it will indicate a future price movement. However, it isn’t a guarantee."