Market Boxes you can leave items in. Your friends can buy the items in your market boxes; but also, you will appear in the game world of random other players around the world, and if they talk to you they will be able to buy from your market boxes. There’s no invitation mechanism, no control over which random people will be offered the chance to shop from your boxes. The reverse also happens — other players appear at random in your game world, and you can talk to them and buy whatever they have on offer in their boxes, at whatever price they have set, but again you have no control over who you get the chance to interact with.
What I’ve noticed is that because of these two features, the Pocket Camp economy seems to be weird in a way that previous Animal Crossing economies weren’t.
In New Leaf, the economy was pretty straightforward. Rare things (like huge beetles and rare fish) were worth more money when sold at the store, and money was the thing that stopped you getting that fancy new furniture you wanted. (If it seems strange to you that beetles are worth a lot of money in Animal Crossing, you might be interested to learn that they are in real life as well.)
In Pocket Camp, I’ve never been short of money. I’ve improved my camper van and paid off the loan in full and I still have 40,000+ bells kicking around. What stops me from getting further in the game is lack of crafting materials and essences, the other pseudo-currencies. The main way to get those is to perform fetch quests for the animals, and the animals have a fairly small set of things they ask for — mostly fruit or common fish, or butterflies or fruit beetles; occasionally sea shells and coral. All of those can be obtained for free, but only at a fixed speed — unlike previous games in the series, you can’t plant more trees or bushes to enable more efficient fruit farming or attract more insects. And while fish and butterflies and fruit beetles will keep appearing at fairly regular intervals, once you pick the fruit in your game world, that’s it unless you wait a few hours for it to regrow.
So ultimately, what I’m short of is usually fruit. Yet what I usually see people trying to sell in their trade boxes is rare beetles and rare fish, which although they are rarely caught, are totally useless in the game. No animal is ever going to ask for a horned dynastid, a football fish or a tuna. I can’t even put those things on display and look at them, like I could rare critters in New Leaf.
Sure, you can sell a tuna to the game for 5,000 bells, but I already have more bells than I know what to do with. Even if you put your tuna up for sale for 3,000 bells, it’s not really worth my time to buy it and resell it just to make 2,000 bells of profit. Whereas if I’ve picked all my apples for the next three hours and Kid Cat still wants two apples, I’d be totally willing to pay 250 bells for two apples, even though the game says they’re only worth 10.
So things which are rare, which the game tells you are worth a lot, are comparatively worthless; and things which the game tells you are almost worthless are really valuable. Once you’ve finished your chores, the best thing you can do from a strategic point of view is harvest all the leftover fruit and make sure you have some of everything up for sale. Strategy guides on the web have noted this, but the idea seems to have escaped most players I’ve encountered. Good luck trying to buy three more pears from that random player standing by the waterfall — they’re too busy trying to sell dynastid beetles, and failing. Oh, and when they finally realize those beetles are never going to sell, they have to just throw them away to make space for something worth selling — so the sunk cost fallacy is going to make it hard for them to do that. Some people do put up fruit for sale, but list it at low prices because the game says it’s not worth much — and then they get angry if random passers-by actually buy from them.
So the economy of Pocket Camp is dysfunctional in that displayed in-game prices don’t reflect actual value, and extreme rarity doesn’t increase value much. Both of these things sometimes happen in the real world, of course: Bitcoin prices you see on the web are largely fictional, and most of those ultra rare Beanie Babies are basically worthless — though the latter doesn’t stop people from trying to sell them for thousands of dollars. I’m not sure that giving people a frustrating lesson in economics was Nintendo’s goal, though. I think Pocket Camp is just broken to fit the needs of “free-to-play”.
© mathew 2017