Bean Musing

What Neko Atsume Taught Me About Money


If you’re a cat lover, you would definitely not have missed the craze that’s called Neko Atsume back in 2016. It was all the hype back then, and to-date, it has reached 19 million downloads. Definitely a great feat. While the obsession has died down somewhat (it died for me when I switched to a new phone in 2017), this game still has a place in my spare phone. Seeing how I still have gaps in my collection, I decided to give it a go. At the same time, I began to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned from this cat collection game.

For those who are unfamiliar with the game, this is the game mechanic:

You are a cat collector.

You have a yard. You leave food and toys in the yard for the cats to come and play. They are not your pets, and just like typical cats, they don’t give a f* about you. You don’t care because they’re cute af (isn’t that how real life works?).

If the cats are happy with the food and toys you labourers have put out, they leave you with the currency in the game - the beloved fish. There are 2 types of fish, silver and gold. 500 silver fish = 1 gold fish. You know how precious the gold one is.

Your goal in this game is to fill up the cat book with pictures, and memento. The cats will give you the memento after they become ‘friendly’ with you. Certain cats (the ‘rare’ cats) will only come if you have the specific toys / food in place. To get them to come, you need to spend the fish to buy them toys and food. You can also expand your yard so you can have even more cats there at any time!

It is a simple game really, but it draws many parallel with life.

  • Not everyone starts at the same place. You get a headstart in the game if you are willing to pay for the fish with real money. Same with life, those with $ have it easier. However, the rule of the game says that while it might take longer, you can eventually get the same result as the one with a headstart.
  • Knowledge is your best friend. I mean to say Google. But Googling about the tactics allowed me to learn from those who have come before me. It made it easier to strategize and execute the plan.
  • Learn the most effective way to amass ‘asset’. There are 3 keys to amass assets in Neko Atsume. One, spend none of your gold fish until you have enough for yard expansion (180 gold) - why? Because you get double the space for your fish-generating asset. Two, buy toys that give you a higher yield, i.e. a toy that can accommodate 2 or more cats. Three, allow as much time as possible for the cats to play in the yard. Sounds familiar?
  • Be strategic about your spending. Certain toys attract specific rare cats. If collecting all the cats is your goal, there is no point spending money on toys that won’t bring you any return in the early days. Especially in terms of food. Don’t waste fish on premium food before you get your yard expansion.
  • Patience is a virtue. You let compound interest do the work. Damn this even applies to a damn cat game.
  • The ideal state to be in is the optimized state. Once you get the yard expansion done, and place out Cat Metropolis (6 cats, on the left) and Cat Condo Complex (5 cats, on the right), you’re basically sitting on a cash.. uhm, I mean fish making machine. Passive income, anyone?
  • You will never run out of money if you set the system right. Don’t spend more than what you can afford/ earn, and fish begets fish.
  • It is okay to make mistakes if you have a buffer. You bought that eggtart because it is cute? You won’t get any special cats? What a waste of fish! Well, it doesn’t matter anymore because now you have a lifetime of fish to spend. At one point, I bought EVERYTHING possible, and I still have 50,000 silver fish and 1,000 gold fish. Life is good.

What do you think? Can you replicate the strategy in real life?