3 Business Lessons I Learned from Animal Crossing

by | April 29, 2020

animal crossing new horizons gameplay image

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent “stay at home” orders across the world has forced us to live our life a lot differently than we usually do. With this, it’s never been more important to balance work with downtime and self-care. For those who work remotely (like me!), a good work-life balance can prevent you from feeling like you’re living at the office 24/7. Something I’ve been doing to relax is playing one of my favorite video games, Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch.  

For those who are unfamiliar with the game, Animal Crossing is a series of games by Nintendo where you play a human villager in a community full of animal villagers. All of the games have slightly different mechanics but the main gameplay is always the same. You spend your day running errands, planting flowers, catching fish and bugs, talking with other villagers all to make money and pay off a loan given to you by a tanuki. I usually just say that Animal Crossing is like The Sims but way more relaxed and with a lot more cute animals.  

If this sounds as boring to you as it does to most of my friends and acquaintances, I completely understand. In fact, Orlando jokes that it’s too slow of a game for him and while it definitely does have a slower pace, in between digging up fossils, running away from tarantulas, and popping floating presents with my sling shot, I’ve found that there are some cool takeaways from playing the game that you can apply to your small business.  

“Seriously?” Yes, seriously. 


Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to take risks. 

In the game, there’s a version of the stock market called the Stalk market, named after the fact that you buy turnips and then later sell them at a higher price than you originally bought them for. You can purchase these turnips on Sunday and you have until Saturday to sell them or they rot and you’re no longer able to sell. As with the real life stock market, there is a large risk of investing your money and not making any back.  

For the longest time, I was conservative with the amount of turnips I bought; and at the first sign of profit, I always sold. I took minimal risk but it insured that I would always make some money. That money would then be used to upgrade my home, build infrastructure, or invest in the local economy. Unfortunately, I was progressing in the game a lot slower than other players who took larger risks with their stalk trading. I looked at what they accomplished with their gains and I felt frustrated that I wasn’t on their level. 

So I decided with this new game, I would go all in. Now whenever Sunday rolls around, I purchase the max amount of turnips that I can and hold out on selling them until I can make at least four times the amount of my initial investment. To further broaden my chances of a great ROI, I also travel to other islands that have higher prices than mine. I’ve made millions of bells (the in-game currency) and I’ve progressed a lot faster in this game than I have in others. In turn, the game has been a lot more fun for me now that I don’t have to worry as much about my spending.  

Even in a video game where stakes are low, taking risks can improve your day-to-day operations. With your small business, it’s important to understand what risks are necessary in order to grow and keep things exciting!


Lesson 2: Collaborate with others. 

When you first start your game and gaze upon your island, you are assigned a native fruit that grows on your trees. For me, it was a pear. I really wanted oranges but the only way to do that was to visit other players’ islands. Luckily, I had friends who had also started the game in need of my pears. I visited many islands and was able to collect all of the fruit available. Not only was I able to create a fruit orchard for my villagers, I was able to help out friends who were working towards the same goal.  

Collaborating isn’t only for achieving goals though, it’s also a way of sharing ideas and sparking new ones. For example, there is an online community on Reddit dedicated to Animal Crossing. It is a place where players can share their experiences, ask questions, have discussions, etc. On many occasions, I have seen posts that have helped me solve a problem I was having or inspire me to try something new. Having a hub where players can come together and build relationships with each other really enhances the game for me. It’s like I’m playing the game with a million of my friends.

While your business problems aren’t as simple as collecting fruit, collaboration plays a large role in the growth of your small business. Whether it’s working toward a goal or delegating tasks, it’s important to collaborate with people you trust. Even collaborating with total strangers can help you think outside the box and possibly create something new. 


Lesson 3: Always keep inventory. 

While there’s technically no winning at Animal Crossing, a lot of players consider completing the different collections in the game pretty close to it. You can collect 80 bugs, 80 fish, 73 fossils, and 43 art pieces. I’ve been playing since the game launched in March and I’ve made a decent amount of progress, but it’s not something I can do by just putting in the time. Some bugs and fish are only available during certain times of the year. Fossils you dig up are totally random and repeat. Genuine art pieces can only be bought when a vendor randomly comes to the island to sell, but they also sell fakes you can’t donate. With all of these constraints, it can be hard to keep track on what I’ve collected and how to collect the rest. 

The game has some features to help keep inventory. Notably, the museum you donate these items to. It’s a walkable museum where you can see all of the critters and items you have given. The problem with this is that there are multiple rooms where things are located so you don’t have a list of what you’ve donated. The game also offers a “Critterpedia” where bugs and fish show up as they’re caught. With this though, you’re unable to learn about any critter you have not caught, making it difficult to figure out what’s available to catch at that time. 

The solution I’ve been using is an app called ACNH Guide that has a database of all critters, fossils, and art pieces. I’m able to keep track of what I’ve collected and what I still need to collect. All of the information is there to help me look for what I’ve yet to find!  

In your small business, you’re likely doing a lot of things at once. It’s easy to repeat tasks, lose documents, or forget progress. Creating some type of inventory, whether it’s a bunch of folders or a spreadsheet, allows you to keep track of everything that goes on in your business. With this, you’re able to be efficient with your time and resources. And when you need the extra motivation to get through the work day, you can see all that you’ve done in regards to your business.


Learn something new? 

You probably know a lot more about Animal Crossing now than you ever thought you would. While a seemingly relaxing game on the surface, for those who want, you can definitely learn a lot that can be applied to your small business in real life. With a bit of creativity, and utilizing your resources, you too can make tons of “bells” and grow your business.


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