Nookazon: How One Animal Crossing Fan Created the Ultimate Fan Trading Site

May 21, 2020

Though it’s hard to see past the cute graphics and characters, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is all about capitalism. You’ve got to find the right resources to build the island and objects of your dreams. Eventually, you’re forced to trade with other players and strike online deals to get what you need.

However, Nintendo doesn’t always make communicating with other players easy. And in a game built on social trading, that can be a major problem. However, it’s a problem that one man solved by creating the ultimate Animal Crossing fan trading site!

Who is this man, and what makes this site so great? We’ve got the full details below.

Who created Nookazon?

Daniel Luu is only 25 years old, but he achieved gaming greatness when he created Nookazon. This is his Amazon-like website whose name pays tribute to Animal Crossing icon Tom Nook.

It didn’t take long for the site to gain major popularity, and it now receives 270,000 daily users. The goal? To make it easier for players to find other people who have the resources they need and organize in-game meetings.

It’s not uncommon for software engineers to have their own projects on the side. For Luu, however, this site has practically transformed his life since it launched in April 2020. And just as he has changed his own life, his creation has changed how thousands of people play Animal Crossing.

The spreadsheet community

Nookazon didn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it came to linking up players. Instead, Luu was able to build on what had come before. Specifically, he was able to build on the spreadsheet community

That’s the name of a Discord server designed to help players understand what you could build in Animal Crossing and what it would take to build it. After that, the next step was easy to imagine but difficult to execute: finding a way for players to meet up and get exactly what they needed to bring their island dreams to life.

Art imitates life

Part of what makes Nookazon fun for players is the implication of its name. It’s not hard to imagine that this real-world site was launched by Tom Nook himself.

In the world of Animal Crossing, players often joke that Tom Nook is a digital Jeff Bezos (the founder of Amazon). And if Nook’s ideas about trading and economy seem utterly insane, that only adds to the game’s quirky, manic charm.

To Nookazon’s growing number of users, the website is more than a simple convenience or social space. It’s also a way to further immerse themselves in Tom Nook’s world even as they transform a corner of that world into their virtual dream space.

Does Nookazon violate the spirit of Animal Crossing?

While most users seem to love Nookazon, there are a few veteran Animal Crossing players that think that it violates the spirit of the game. Nookazon is all about eliminating the need to wait for certain resources, but some players feel like the waiting is a major part of the experience.

It’s easy to see their point. Reviewers and players alike have lauded this game for being a chill experience that you can engage with in your own terms. Changing that into a race to buy and build as quickly as possible may indeed make New Horizons seem like an entirely different game.

Nevertheless, the genie is now out of the bottle. Just as all of us live in a post-Amazon world, these players now live in a post-Nookazon world. And someone who finds the time to freak out about how other people play the game should probably use some Nook Miles and book a flight back to reality!


A communication workaround

When you see something like Nookazon take shape, you might be wondering why Nintendo didn’t create their own online community. The answer is that they tried… and, arguably, they failed.

Nintendo does have an official Animal Crossing: New Horizons Discord server where players can chat with each other and make trades deals. However, this amounted to one cluttered chatroom filled with countless players. It could be tough to keep up with individual conversations, and many first-time users had trouble using Discord.

With Nookazon, Luu offers the best of both worlds. His website interface is clean, easy to use, and works a lot like… well… Amazon! But Nookazon also has its own Discord server, and Luu (along with volunteers) have worked to make it a safe and intuitive trading environment.

A second job

If it sounds like Luu has put a ton of work into Nookazon, that’s because he has! In fact, all of this work amounts to a second full-time job.

As a senior software engineer, he has a day job that pays his bills. But more of his free time goes into maintaining and growing Nookazon. To do this, he’s had to “cut out a lot of hobbies” and “spend most of my free time on the site,” he told The Washington Post.

Why does he do it, then? According to Luu, “I love working on it.” And his sense of passion and community commitment is a large part of why Nookazon is so successful.

Shifting economies

Luu’s original goal was simply to make trading items easier between players. Inevitably, though, Nookazon has shifted the way players view this virtual economy.

For example, bells, a common currency, quickly became yesterday’s news. But Luu quickly noticed players trading rarer items that ranged from Nook Miles tickets to star fragments.

This has created an ongoing struggle to accurately value each form of currency. Remember the joke from The Office where they question the value of the Schrute Buck versus the Stanley Nickel? This has become Luu’s reality as he must determine the relative value of multiple fictional items in an ever-changing economy!

A bigger and better future

Nookazon is pretty damn impressive as it is. But to Daniel Luu, the future is even bigger and better!

For example, he’s considering building his own separate app to replace the chat features of his overloaded Discord server. And he’s thinking about expanding the Nookazon trading features to some unspecified other games in the future.

In the meantime, he’s making a bit of money through Patreon as well as official Nookazon merch. With a little luck, the runaway popularity of Nookazon may help Daniel Luu write his own ticket to any future career he wants!

Are you using Nookazon? Tell us in the comments below!

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