It may surprise innocent, law-abiding villagers to learn this, but the world is full of people with modified Nintendo Switch consoles whomst, with little regard for themselves or others, fill their Animal Crossing: New Horizons islands with illegal and illicit goods, including (but not limited to) such dreamlike impossibilities as the star fragment tree, seen above. Star fragments, for those who’ve yet to sign for Tom Nook’s generous relocation package, are glowing bits of shooting stars that crash on player islands in New Horizons. Normally they can only be acquired on rare nights when shooting stars are visible, but Animal Crossing hackers have figured out how to make them grow on trees, and are now selling those trees to innocent, well-meaning players who just want pretty things for their islands.
And by “selling,” I mean that in whatever way you’d inferred. Some people are selling star fragment trees for Nook Miles tickets, which are the currency of custom for (more reputable) unofficial Animal Crossing: New Horizons marketplaces like Nookazon. Others are selling their star fragment trees for real-world cash, for as much (or as little, depending on your perspective) as $3.00 per tree, or as a bundle of 40 trees for $50, as can be seen in this listing first unearthed by Polygon. Sellers are using Twitter, Facebook, and black market Discord servers to sling their unauthorized flora, and as one might imagine, such unregulated transactions are potential hotbeds for deceit and thievery.
The enticing thing about star fragment trees is that you, personally, do not have to hack your Nintendo Switch in order to own one. While the trees don’t naturally exist in-game, all the hackers are doing is tricking the tree into growing one kind of item (in this case, star fragments) instead of another kind of item, like apples or bell bags. (Hackers can also make trees grow basically anything in the game, such as fossils, rare flower hybrids, and even other, smaller trees, just like in real life.) Because the game just sees a tree with an item on it, there’s nothing stopping the arborist from coming to your island with the tree in their inventory and leaving it there once the transaction is complete. And based on anecdotal evidence, it doesn’t seem like having one of these lab-grown trees on your island causes any weird glitches or other problems.
Not yet, at least. The real issue is that Nintendo could, at any time, patch the game to convert these trees into normal trees, remove them from the game entirely, or even take punitive action against Nintendo Switch accounts that have them. (After all, the only way to get such a tree is to consort with someone that has violated the Switch EULA, at minimum.) Nintendo could invalidate your entire save file if it felt like it, due to the existence of unauthorized and/or modified game content.
And look, I get it: the dang trees are flippin’ adorable. They’re perfect little twinkle star sprites and they look like something Rainbow Brite would have on her island. I love them dearly and hope that Nintendo implements them officially, so I can make my island the farm where the little star bits in the boiler scene from Spirited Away come from, but I’m not going to risk my relationship with Cube to do it. We’ve been through too much.