Nothing’s free in this world. So why would anything, let alone public transit, be free in an idyllic video game world designed for escapism? When Animal Crossing: New Horizons soon gets the option to ride a ferry, those rides won’t be free.
Nintendo’s enormously popular life sim, which some say is a representative if simplified microcosm of capitalism, is getting a bunch of new stuff next month, including the fan favorite ferryman character Kapp’n. And he’s charging a relatively steep fare—to the tune of 1,000 Nook Miles per ride—for his services. Some players have balked at the price. Others see it as an opportunity to start hoarding Nook Miles. But everyone agrees: Yup, not free.
Kapp’n, like every other Animal Crossing character who isn’t controlled by an IRL human, is an anthropomorphic animal—in this case, a turtle. He’s been around since the old days, first appearing in 2002’s Animal Crossing for the Nintendo GameCube. He’s known for singing sea shanties, and for also kind of being a creep.
When Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched in March 2020 and gave everyone an escape at the exact moment they needed it, Kapp’n wasn’t part of the initial roster of NPCs. A year and a half later, in the face of an extended New Horizons content drought, some players wondered why Kapp’n and other Animal Crossing mainstays—like Brewster and his twee coffee shop—were still missing from the game. Earlier this month, Nintendo confirmed in a digital showcase that many of the major absentees would come to New Horizons for the game’s much-anticipated November 5 update.
The specifics of Kapp’n’s role are largely under wraps until he’s actually in the game, but broadly, he’ll cart you off to various islands in the same vein as New Horizon’s Mystery Tour feature. (Notably, Mystery Tours allow you to farm fruit that doesn’t grow naturally on your island.)
Generally, players are mixed. On Twitter, the streamer Kkaislider, who broadcasts self-described “wholesome chaos” on Twitch under the handle Kairi, urged players to start saving Nook Miles “bc Kapp’n takes 1000 per boat ride [smiling_face_with_tear emoji].” The Twitch streamer Fwoggyholly expressed similar feelings, saying on Twitter that she was “shocked and dismayed” at the fact that she’d “actually have to earn something [sob emoji]” in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
While Miles are easy to earn, they might take a while to accrue, and for players with fewer resources or time, that would make the activity more of an occasional treat.
On the other hand, some players are less concerned, noting they already have close to 100,000 Nook Miles—or more—in the bank. (One person posted a screenshot showing an account balance of 455,990 Miles. Um, does Kapp’n have a first-class fare?) For those players, Kapp’n may as well be charging pennies.
And sure, in the grand scheme of things, 1,000 Nook Miles—while of course nothing to scoff at—likely won’t break the bank, especially for players who’ve diligently stuck with the game since launch. Animal Crossing: New Horizons awards Nook Miles for completing all manner of chores and tasks. You’ll get a couple hundred for buying or selling an item for the first time. You can get a couple hundred more for tasks like visiting a friend’s island, changing your island’s flag, or attending one of K.K. Slider’s concerts. You even get 2,000 for logging into the game on your birthday.
What seems to have struck people most is that Kapp’n’s ferry services cost more than expected In Animal Crossing: New Horizons. There’s already a similar service: Dodo Airlines, which for 2,000 Miles will take you to a mystery island. Without knowing what the new Mystery Islands might entail, and given that his previous boons are already dispersed in New Horizons, it’s hard to imagine what would make his fee worthwhile.
But also, you’re seriously telling me that operating a skiff costs half as much as operating a personal plane? Get out of here! (The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimates that operating a small private Cessna, the real-world plane most similar to what Dodo Airlines’ Wilbur flies in New Horizons, costs at minimum $22,530 per year.) Kapp’n is obviously running these boats at a serious upcharge.
There’s also the matter that—if, fine, we’re turning Animal Crossing into a real-world corollary—ferries historically offer service to well-off demographic regions at the expense of regions that desperately need transit access. In New York City, for instance, the city’s ferry network is subsidized at a rate of $10 per ride, amounting to a total cost of $600 million over three years. As noted by Gothamist, the city’s ferries provide service to neighborhoods that are already connected to reliable transit.
The rich get richer, and they get to go where they want, when they want to. Everyone else is left on the docks. Animal Crossing: New Horizons: a representative if simplified microcosm of capitalism, indeed.