When the Animal Crossing: New Horizons community learned about the hacker who gave out Raymonds to fight black market greed, the response was immense. PokeNinja, the generous soul behind the project, couldn’t keep up with all the people asking if they, too, could have a free gray cat in their game.
“With the amount of messages coming in, I wondered how I could continue helping people, but on a larger scale,” he told Polygon over Twitter messages.
The first time around, PokeNinja used a hacked version of the game to generate villagers to give away to other players. The method he used was time consuming, and couldn’t be scaled up to meet the enormous demand. But as PokeNinja read through the messages flooding his inbox, he discovered that he wasn’t the only one who wanted to fight back against the growing toxicity surrounding the Animal Crossing economy.
Some fans wanted to learn how to hack their own games, so they could also give back to the larger Animal Crossing community. Others reaching out already knew how to meddle with their copies of the game, and wanted to join the cause.
In late May, PokeNinja started thinking of expansion. He spoke to about 20 prospective candidates and started sketching out ideas for a group he’d call Villager Haven. The idea was simple, but ambitious: to provide any prospective player with an easy to way to get the villager of their dreams, free of charge.
Near the end of June, the project went live in the form of a Discord. Anyone can join. All you have to do is type in the villager you want via a bot, and the system asks you to confirm your choice. From there, a team member will eventually contact you to set up the details. You have 48 hours to pick up a prospective dream villager. You don’t have to do anything special to get what you want; there are no exchanges of Bells, Nook Miles Tickets, or furniture to worry about.
As easy as typing in your dream villager#VillagerHaven #Saturday pic.twitter.com/5Dc04mVIxk— PokéNinja (@iPokeNinja) June 19, 2020
Once again, the response has been tremendous. Of the first 450 requests, “half” of them were Raymond, the popular feline with heterochromia, PokeNinja told Polygon. (The second most popular request is Judy, he adds.) The fervor around Raymond may not be as visible online anymore, as some of the world has moved on from Animal Crossing, but the hunger is still there. Unsurprisingly, folks participating in the program seem thrilled.
Just got my dreamie from @iPokeNinja @ACVillagerHaven AND IM SERIOUSLY IN LOVE- was shaking from excitement the whole time, and he already is loving my range of musical instruments and a warm musical welcome from KK pic.twitter.com/0voE5zP5MU— Juno (@Juno35537717) June 21, 2020
AHHHHHH I'M SO HAPPY, thank you so much @ACVillagerHaven for giving us all a chance for Raymond!! Earning 1000+ NMT to buy him would've taken me years, I'm so happy pic.twitter.com/kD9J0v3oEU— rukaruka22 (@rukarukaa22) June 21, 2020
BRUH I LOVE U THANK U FOR THIS I GOT HIM SO FAST !!!! @iPokeNinja @ACVillagerHaven pic.twitter.com/xsV1XDEazX— ki :L (@pu_uppy) June 21, 2020
So far, over 3,000 people have joined the Discord. The team was expecting a high load during launch, but so far, the rollout hasn’t had any hitches.
“The most challenging part is setting the expectation for the community that there is no time frame in which we get back to them,” PokeNinja said. Every request is logged, but you might have to wait a little to get the villager. Folks aren’t told where in the queue they are, only that they should have a little patience as real humans work behind the scenes to make it all happen.
“Our goal is to help as many people as possible while also making them aware that they could have unknown waiting times,” he continued, telling Polygon that he expects to double his team within a week or so. “The more we do the more we’ll understand what to expect for our time frames in terms of getting through the queues.”
The collective, at this point, has grown beyond just “hackers,” PokeNinja says — it’s becoming a community of people who are using a variety of methods to hunt down villagers for other players, whether that’s an extensive amiibo collection or old-fashioned Mystery Island searches. It’s big enough that one can’t help but wonder if the efforts will start drawing Nintendo’s attention, despite their generosity. But PokeNinja isn’t worried.
“There are way more people out there selling villagers on eBay and other sites, it would seem a little weird to target a small team such as ourselves,” he said. “If at all my console got banned by Nintendo, I would simply whip out another one and continue.”
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.