Following a shaky few years, Neopets announced that it’s under new management alongside plans to revitalize its brand on July 17, with an in-depth statement that has fans excited for the 23-year-old game’s future for the first time in years.
The announcement — made via a post on Medium — promises widespread changes for the popular web-based digital pet game. Some changes are at a management level, with a new CEO heading World of Neopia Inc., which just became an independent studio after buying itself out from its previous owner. Others are responses to fan criticisms about Neopets’ involvement in NFTs and Web3, ongoing issues with bugs, and the game’s struggling economy. And others are wholly new outings, like the upcoming mobile release, World of Neopets, a mobile game that’s being billed as the future of Neopets.
But exciting as all this sounds for Neopians, fans are concerned this may not be the revival they are hoping for.
Neopets in Decline
The popular browser-based game Neopets, which has been going since 1999, saw a brief renaissance during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it quickly lost face again among new and old players alike after announcing Neopets Meta, a new Neopets game designed on the blockchain, in 2021. In Neopets Meta, players could earn unique in-game ‘Neocollectibles’ like Neopets themselves or ‘Pizzaroo’s Unique Pizzas’ and sell or trade them on marketplaces including Magiceden and Solanart, which are used to sell NFTs and other similar digital collectibles. To make matters worse, Neopets’ branding and gameplay are very clearly marketed towards kids, making a push for NFTs and cryptocurrency especially predatory and concerning.
Like other blockchain-related pivots and initiatives, Neopets Meta garnered widespread fan backlash when it was announced. But up until the beginning of this month, Neopets Meta showed no signs of stopping in response to that feedback. Earlier this year, Neopets even won $4 million in funding from prominent players in the Web3 space to further its initiatives.
Meanwhile, other aspects of the base Neopets game have seen widespread disrepair. Neoboards, the online messaging forum linked to the main Neopets website, has seen severe content moderation issues. The game’s economy has widespread issues spurred on by cheating and bot accounts, with items like bread costing users months’ worth of savings.
neopets economy reflecting the current US one with a monthly 2,000 neopoint stimulus and 33,000 NP bread pic.twitter.com/WUIReB6QEs
— ari 🪱 (@marrymearchie) December 22, 2020
And, since there have been a number of changes to the game’s structure and browser-based gaming in general over the last few years, many pages and games simply don’t work. According to the statement made in a Medium post, the company has been operating at a loss for over 10 years. With all that in mind, it’s no wonder that Neopets felt the time was ripe for drastic change.
A New Era For Neopets
Enter Dominic Law, the company’s former Chief Metaverse Officer. Following the collapse of parent company Jumpstart, Law negotiated a management buyout late last June, officially putting Neopets under an independent developer. With its newfound freedom, The Neopets Team published its first public statement as an independent studio. Billed as, “A New Era For Neopets,” the announcement promised sweeping changes for the game that addressed many players’ concerns.
First and foremost, the controversial Neopets Meta is being shuttered. Based on the statement, The Neopets Team made the decision after reviewing player feedback and engagement. It’s also worth noting that this follows the trend of other prominent players in the gaming space backing down from their commitments to blockchain-related ventures.
Since the announcement, anyone who visits the Neopets Meta website is greeted with a statement announcing an end to the blockchain-based game. However, The Neopets Team also promises to “continue to support the Web3 community that has embraced ownership of these collections,” and goes on to say that existing collections of ‘digital collectibles’ will still be available on the open marketplace, meaning that those interested will still be able to buy, sell and trade Neopets collectibles.
In the hopes of avoiding future conflict between players and developers, The Neopets Team also announced that it would be focusing more on community engagement and involvement by bringing brand ambassadors into the fold such as John Legend, and hosting regular AMAs.
Perhaps the biggest announcement from the statement, however, was that World of Neopia Inc. would be transitioning to a mobile app called World of Neopets. Rebuilding from the ground-up, World of Neopets will be a social life-sim game that incorporates past elements from Neopets, with a rash of new content planned for the future including a new storyline. Fans of the original browser game can rest easy, as Neopets.com will still be available to play and access.
The Medium post doesn’t address timelines or roadmaps for any new Neopets content, updates, or the newly announced mobile game. Instead, it made an additional promise: a content roadmap to be revealed later the same week alongside a new, centralized landing page for all things Neopets.
The Missing Map
As promised, the new landing page went live. But despite its polished look, the site doesn’t seem as complete a hub for all things Neopets as initially promised. The site’s ‘News & Updates’ page, for example, links to a small handful of guides and tips for Neopets players and a Neopets podcast with a smattering of other blog-style posts. Most notably, the content roadmap, which was supposed to launch with the site on July 20, is nowhere to be found in this section or anywhere else on the new website four days after it was promised. The old Neopets website still has a roadmap posted, but it’s dated November of 2022. And a sentence in the “A New Era for Neopets” post on the new website reads, “To learn more about all of our plans, check out our newly updated roadmap,” but links to nothing.
In another example of the new website’s incomplete nature, one link in the News & Updates section — titled “It’s Your Choice” — appears to be a disclaimer about collecting user data. But it doesn’t provide any information about how users can make the “choice” the header alleges exists to opt out of such data-collection practices, and the text lacks context or introduction. The page bears a vaguely threatening (if comical) tone thanks to its headline and thumbnail combination over a sparse page.
Links to webpages for the original Neopets, as well as the brand’s three mobile games: Faerie’s Hope, Island Builders, and World of Neopets are all present and prominent on the new website. But World of Neopets, which has been discussed as a pivotal part of the brand’s refresh, doesn’t have a full website, instead welcoming players with a statement about the game’s development. The statement ends by encouraging players to check the brand’s new landing page for news and updates.
The Future of Neopia
At face value, the shuttering of Neopets Meta may sound promising for any fans looking forward to new Neopets content that doesn’t involve controversial Metaverse-inclined initiatives like cryptocurrency, NFTs, or Web3. In the Medium post, Neopets’ new CEO, Dominic Law is presented as a lifelong Neopets fan who’s excited to reconnect with a childhood favorite.
While that may still be the case, the Medium post doesn’t address Law’s history with the brand. From 2021 until June 30th, 2023 when The Neopets Team (led by Law) bought itself out, he served as the company’s Chief Metaverse Officer. In addition to his previous position within the company, Law’s also made comments expressing his interest and excitement about Web3 on LinkedIn. This has some fans understandably concerned about the game’s future.
Digging deeper on Neopets’ big refresh, further links to Web3 and metaverse initiatives pop up. Remember that $4 million in funding that Neopets received earlier this year from “industry leaders in the gaming and blockchain sectors”? The Medium post cites the same $4 million as part of the reason why The Neopets Team was able to buy itself out following parent company Jumpstart’s closure on June 30.
The investors — Polygon Ventures, Blizzard Avalanche Ecosystem Fund, Hashkey Capital, IDG Capital, and NetDragon Websoft — are all blockchain-focused organizations. Polygon Ventures is even involved in the Neopets Metaverse marketplace, where a Polygon account is currently required to swap Neocollectibles. Polygon ventures is invested in other blockchain-based play-to-earn services like the Sandbox, which has worked with the likes of Ubisoft and Atari.
While the Medium post and various statements published by the newly independent developer note that current plans for the Neopets brand at large don’t include cryptocurreny and NFTs, they make no mention of Web3 or the blockchain, potentially leaving the door open for non-NFT and non-cryptocurrency-specific ventures in the blockchain.
Since the announcement, many players have flooded message boards, social media sites and forums to express their excitement and hope for the platform. Many are certainly cautious about this new leadership change. Reddit user u/artisanal_doughnut points out that this may be a last-ditch effort for The Neopets Team if its plans don’t succeed.
IGN has reached out to World of Neopia Inc. for comment regarding both the missing roadmap and the brand’s future involvement in Web3 ventures and has not recieved a response at the time of writing.
At the end of the day, most Neopians share the same sentiment: they want to enjoy the game as they used to without wading through unmoderated forums, inflated in-game prices, broken mini games and questionable monetization practices. Between missing a roadmap for the game’s ‘New Era’ and the potential for Web3 to reappear in Neopia, the game’s future may be less bright than players think.
Charlie Wacholz is a freelance writer at IGN.