Continuing on the theme of massively multiplayer worlds that people don’t pay attention to, here’s a nice Boston Globe article about Webkinz. The gimmick here is that you buy a plush toy, and it comes with a login code for your virtual apartment, complete with a virtual pet version of the toy you bought. In fact, the toy is actually your subscription fee: each one you buy gives you access for a year.
Enough with the hype, you say. How about figures? Try 2.5m uniques in December.
This goes alongside Club Penguin‘s 4m uniques in December, of course. A core characteristic of these games is that they offer housing and pets in place of character advancement — mechanics that are of course near and dear to my heart.
Madison shows a visitor her Webkinz house, which has 14 rooms and a yard. The playroom is stocked with a board game, soccer ball, and dollhouse. Madison enjoys competing for best outfit on Webkinz SuperModelz and avoiding falling candies on Candy Bash 2. She also feeds her virtual pets and monitors their health and happiness.
I of course find it ironic that the very features that are regarded as peripheral by the mainstream games biz are the ones driving mass market acceptance. With little kids, anyway.
The article offers other tidbits, such as these little factoids:
Last month Toontown attracted 2.2 million visitors. Disney plans to introduce a “Pirates of the Caribbean” MMO game this year. The medieval-themed RuneScape, whose typical user is a 14- or 15-year-old boy, began in 2001 and attracted 5.8 million visitors in December.
I won’t reiterate yet again how much cheaper it was to make these sites compared to a regular MMO. In fact, you can buy the server Club Penguin is built on for 3500 Euro. I hope the dinosaurs are paying attention.