Welcome to Neopets’ Neopia, 25 million strong

If you haven’t popped over to the Neopets site, you should. It’s an amazing online world, perfectly designed for younger children who are more interested in cute fun and adventures than the latest “shooter” game. Gamers would likely categorize Neopets as a “massively multiplayer online role playing game” (MMORPG) but then again, they’d probably all turn up their noses at this rather cloyingly cute and oh-so-Japanese online world.
Here are some facts about Neopets to whet your own appetite:

  • Neopets has 25 million members worldwide
  • Neopets is translated into 10 different languages
  • The Neopets site gets more than 2.5 billion pageviews per month
  • The average Neopet fan – Neopian in its lingo – spends over six hours per month on the site, making it one of the two or three “stickiest” sites on the entire Internet.
  • Neopia has a demographic that would explain why you probably haven’t heard of it too: 80% of Neopians are under 18 and 40% of Neopians are under 13

How much does this make the company worth?
Cable and media conglomerate Viacom recently bought Neopets for $160 million (which seems darn low to me, actually, but that’s another story).
The secret to Neopets success? It’s darn cute, and it’s a truly perfect venue for hawking products.
Consider this map of the main “market” area in Neopia:

Neopets: Neopia Central

Notice anything about that picture? Corporations sponsor certain key areas where members inevitably spend lots of time: There’s a McDonalds, a Disney store, a “Cereal Adventure” where kids can go and watch commercials for General Mills cereals, and much more.
In a lot of ways, Web sites like Neopets really does represent the future of the Internet for children, online sites that offer entire worlds to explore and enjoy, but with produce placement, familiar logos and corporate messages throughout.
An example is “Pet Central”, the main area where you manage your virtual pet or pets:
Neopets: Neopia Pet Central

Beauty contests, feeding your pet, winning trophies, and even a separate page for each of the tens of millions of different Neopets in the world, plus a private email system, calendar of events and even, believe it or not, an inflation rate that varies slightly every day (today it’s at 2.31%). It really is a whole new world and while it’s reassuringly complex for children to learn about things like inflation, it’s also disturbing that commercial enterprises have their tendrils so deeply intertwined into Neopia.
This is definitely not something that I’d spend time with, but my kids would unquestionably find this completely engrossing.
Neopia also has its own currency, the NeoPoints, and it seems likely that there’s a crossover into real currency and real financial transactions too, for those kids who really want to get ahead. After all, if you’re spending a zillion hours playing games and earning NP, why not offer to donate a few thousand to someone else if they Paypal you $20?
When children earn “money” by taking marketing surveys, watching TV commercials on their computers, and playing logo-heavy games it’s no surprise that media critics are appalled by Neopia. It’s even more distressing to learn that almost 500,000 Neopets members are less than eight years old, an age group that’s darn susceptible to the type of aggressive marketing that is rife on the site.
I also find it most disturbing, an apparently innocent site that zealously promotes products like “Lucky Charms” and businesses like McDonalds to millions of children whose parents probably think it’s all cute, harmless fun. I think that we’d have happier, healthier kids if they weren’t eating this sort of junk food but were instead having their parents help teach them the value of quality food that isn’t processed and isn’t full of “natural flavorings” and worse. But that’s a discussion you’re more likely to find on my Attachment Parenting Blog anyway.
Wondering about the people behind Neopia and how kid-friendly they are? Here’s a very telling quote from WIRED magazine’s recent writeup of Neopets:
“[Neopets boss Doug] Dohring didn’t respond to outcries of Neopians who lost their shirts on the Neodaq, a stock market in which all members can invest their NeoPoints. “Around the time of the Enron scandal, we bankrupted three of those companies just for the hell of it,” he says. The Neopians weren’t amused. “They were saying, ‘This is no fair!'” he recalls with a laugh. “But, hey, stuff happens in the world.”
The Web site is also just the tip of the iceberg with this business too. There are trading cards, stuffed animals, movies, a TV series, and much more, all spinning out of this 25 million member world. Pop over to eBay and search for “neopets” and you’ll see what I mean.
One thing’s for sure: if you want to learn about the future of the ‘net for the younger set, Neopets.com is an important place to start. It’s a whole ‘nother world, and it’s doubtless inspiring a raft of competitors, many of which will likely be even more appalling to adult eyes and thrilling to young ones.
A good background article: The Neopets Addiction from WIRED magazine.

35 comments on “Welcome to Neopets’ Neopia, 25 million strong

  1. So somebody *did* find a way to do gather a large audience using a Microsoft Bob-like UI. I figured somebody would eventually figure out how to do it well and that all the anti-Bob pundits would be proven wrong.
    Maybe what Neopets really shows is that “demographics matter”.
    Now here’s the *big* question: what will all these 8-year-olds expect when they grow up and are faced with the prospect of using the “real” Internet? What reaction will we see from these budding young software developers?
    What will the W3C and the Semantic Web and Web Services folks have to offer those young developers that has any appeal whatsoever? Ditto for Open Source and the LAMP crowd.
    Or, will the next generation just ignore all of their parents’ barbaric software and go off and design and build “Web 3.0” (or 4.0) based on the concepts of social computing and social user interfaces as exemplified by Neopets?
    — Jack Krupansky

  2. i use neopets and children under 13 may not use the neoboards. also the boards are monitored 24/7. when something goes wrong or there is a fight the neopets team closes the board

  3. As a fellow Neopian, I am definetly addicted to Neopets. I am thirteen years old, and have been playing this game for the entire six years it has been out, and I have found absolutely nothing wrong with it.
    When it comes to the NeoBoards, I hope you realize that there will always be a few “bad apples.” In Neopia, we call these people noobs. Translation? An airheaded, inconsiderate, selfish, greedy, scamming Neopian. Now, children under twelve? They shouldn’t be on the NeoBoards, which is why, when you sign up, they ask you to pick an age category. This really does help when starting Neopets, because it keeps children away from any harrassment that they might not be able to handle yet.
    I’d encourage many to join Neopets. I’ve already introduced a couple of my neighbors and they seem to enjoy it just as much as anyone else. Thank you!

  4. this site is good, however, its is BADLY MONITORED.
    whenever someone posts rude stuff, it doesnt get deleted in time. its awful

  5. I presume you’re talking about the Neopets site, Mike, which is a bit confusing because I don’t see where people can post things in the first place. Can you elucidate and perhaps include a few examples?

  6. I like neopets. I am pretty much am addicted to it. I find it a wonderful place to meet up with friends through boards and guilds and make “new” friends I will know through the internet. It is a cool place to hang out.
    It is also nice because it lets you play games and things you wouldn’t normally do on a usual website. You can create your own adventure or bounce through the hills on turmac roll!
    I love it.

  7. I play on neopets and love it..and by thwe way I am a mom with a 4 year old and I’m a nanny,.. I am not a kid. Kids are not the only ones who like cute (though that may be why neopets has a larger percentage of female players then male.) And kids are not the only ones who don’t want to play rude gross shoot and kill games of most video games today. For me I like somewhere peaceful I can go in the evening hours where I can go shopping lol 🙂
    Of course the most common misconception about nopets is that its a “kids site”. While there are lots of kids who play it if you looked up actual numbers you’d find there is a 2 out of 3 ratio of adult players v.s. kids. As well the game was originally created for college students, this has been stated numerous times by the games original creators adam borovan and donna williams.
    While they have dumbed it down a bit for kids (renaming the wine to “sparkling juice” for instance) The sucsessful players of this game are in the end, pretty much all adults. ANd these are the people who are dealing (and complaining) about the stock market crash as they are used to making millions in a day, not loosing them. In fact according to their own poll under 30% of the people on neopets have ever used to stock market, and 50% of the people who never used have never even HEARD of it…these are the kids, a market crash isn’t affecting most 8 year olds. Most young kids simply do not get into the interesting, complicated, LEARNING part of the site about how worlds work. They go about as far as pounding away at the keyboard on one of the mindless sponsor games featuring hillary dumb..I mean duff, or McDonalds.
    While neopets has tried to make the site more kids safe with “neopets jr”, which excludes any banner ads and kids cannot play the games that resemble slot machines its still not perfect. They still are bombarded by advertising and never get much from the game as most are really just to young to “get” the game.
    In turn basically a lot of their supposed “Direct marketing to younger kids” is failing. Perhaps thats why McDOnalds and a lot of other sponsors have left, I dont know.
    I Wouldn’t let my kid just whatch any childrens show just because its rated G, there are lots of horrible kids shows out there,And seeing as neopets doesn’t specifically state anywhere that its a kids site is it neopets fault or the parents fault if the parent just assumes something is ok and lets their kid spend hours on a website without fully checking it out first?
    And really is it playing a game with “cereal adventure” any worse then the dad who lets his kid sit on his lap and watch 20 different beer commercials during the big game? 😛

  8. I beleive that Neopets is a wonderful site for people of all ages. It is my favourite website to visit. I would have to say, even though I am only eleven myself, many of the people that visit the site and play regularly are adults. And many of the people aged 13-18 are just using Neopets to “chat” and somebody even sayed that they hated Neopets and was just on there to “chat”. Therefore, if you changed the cont of ages of how many users there are to how many played regularly, I’m sure the 80 percentile would change to somewhere around 60 percent. That’s just a rough estimate, but the majority of people on the boards under 18 that I have talked to are really just taking advantage of the site to “chat”. Wow, I think I used “chat” too much.

  9. I love neopets! I’m 16 and neopets is considered stupid and lame to most I know at this age however, I love it. I admit that I love to roleplay and chat on the neoboards or mail but I respect other people and their wishes. Two of my favourite things to do is train my Xweetox, Obi_Wan_Kenobi340 and play games.

  10. I’m nineteen, and I think Neopets is fun, and have some educational issues too! Some games involve mathematics, spacial thinking, and grammar knowledge. Games like Math Nightmare, Word Pyramid, and Gummi Dice.

  11. I’m thirteen from Indonesia,& new member in neopets ,I’m very interested about this site because the games is “most challenging”.

  12. I am Neopets’addict, i am playing for 4 years now. You can see my userlookup at edwin_kandani
    I am from Indonesia
    Bagi yang suka neopets dari indonesia boleh gabung di guild kami

  13. It’s scary how addictive it is. I’m 16, and I find that lots of the players that get more into the site (such as stocks)are payers that are about 13+ years old. I played when I was younger then stopped and started again. When I was younger all I remeber doing was playing games and going to shops and buying things just for the hell of it. Now I have stocks and get more involved with things like guilds and boards. As for the “Bad apples” on the boards I think there was less of them before the mcdons. advertisement. And Neopets is poorly monitored, I find it irritating when you see a board made that is like “I lyke l3t her lick my lollipop n00bs. I pwn. B./i./t./c./h” They used to have volunteer monitors, I don’t know why they got rid of them but I think they should bring them back.

  14. I am an 26y.o. preschool educator and playing for at least 4 years. not an addicted neo, but I find it amusing, cute and not by any mean dangerous for children. I believe that it’s a good way for children to manage money, even if they DO play in the stock market, (because playing and losing or winning teaches you life). Would I reccomend it to children under 10 without parental control? Hmmm… Maybe not, only because it is addictive and they wouldn’t do their homework if you don’t get to persuade them to play only for a limited amount of time…:)

  15. I am ten and I have been playing neopets for about 5 months. You are not allowed to go on the boards,do neomail, or do HTML without your parents premisson if you are under 13. Your picture needs to be updated, because there are shops that are now in other parts of the shopping areas, and some shops that do not exist anymore. obviously you do not have an acount on neopets since you no nothing about the site. Make an account and you will see.

  16. im fifteen and still go on neopets. i havent found a thing wrong and ive been on for four years.
    the only thing i use now are the neoboards(and i play occausional games with my little cousins).
    its getting to be really commercial and its really frustrating. once they started altering the neopet appearence (for example, the grarrl used to be very vicious looking, but they sweetened him up and now hes just a big smiley fuzz ball), i knew something was wrong.
    but neopets has its quirks and i cant say i can leave.
    i spend about five hours on at least weekly.
    a lot of people tell me as a highschooler, i should have better things to do, but who can blame me?
    neopets is addicting and id love to work for them someday. theyre genius advertisers.

  17. Hi,
    My name is Violet and I would like to know the site you use to enter this central Neopia that has coffee McDonald’s and Theatre Disney! Please reply me by my email: @ violet.sarah_13yahoo.com.br!
    Thank you, Violet!

  18. Hey! I love neopet nd I started playing when I was 7 yrs old. But I lost my account when I was 9 so I created another one. I LOVE neopets and I play daily now!!!

  19. I am 12 years old and I love neopets. I love the new games. I play daily for 1 reason: Altador cup. I like this game. It is better than the last year because you can see the species of the Neopets during the game. I began playing when I was like 9, it was when I had a plushie Neopet at Mcdonald:). The only thing is that I lost my old account, and I have adopted a kiko and a desert ixi in this account! But I can’t get back my password! Anyways, I LOVE NEOPETS!

  20. I’m 18 and I’ve played Neopets off and on since I was in 5th grade. It’s not a bad website at all… I learned HTML and how to use Photoshop because of Neopets. And actually I think it teaches kids money management skills. It can truly harvest creativity, too. There’s a Neopian times and articles, comics, etc. can be submitted. It’s a diverse and amazing website. No complaints about the website itself from me aside from all this new advertising. There used to be no ads.

  21. I’m 18 and have been playing neopets on and off for 6 years…I liked it much better before all the heavy advertising and renovations they did to it but i still find it fun and really addictive. I learned how to use HTML, CSS, and PaintShopPro because of neopets, which allowed me to design and create my first website (an anime character fansite) when i was only in 7th grade (its still popular!), and it really spiked my interest in web design and i continued to make and design webpages…now i am getting a graphic design degree on a full scholarship. so neopets actually helped me find my career choice hahaha…anyway i agree that only the older kids and adults really ‘get’ the site; i recently only started investing in the stock market and learning other ways to build a neopian fortune (…not that it matters in real life but its still something fun to do when i have extra time between classes), i think it would be really hard for younger kids to understand some of that stuff but the good thing is neopets has a lot to offer for all ages and when i was younger neopets taught me basic money management skills…i love the site i just wish they would cut back on the advertising it can get kind of annoying (i dont see how its actually bad for kids though, i mean its nothing they dont see on tv commercials)

  22. Neopets is not only a kids site. while the cute animals and cartoons appeal to kids, adults get more involved than the kids. Me and my friends have been playing neopets for about 3 months now and we are all hooked. I log on to neopets now as often as my myspace and facebook accounts. It is a great way to use your free time, and you will find lots of fun comes with it. Me and my friends love it so much, when we get together we all bring our laptops and play together. we are 16. a neopets account takes 5 minutes to make. for anyone whos ever been curious, i advise you to at least give it a try.

  23. hi i’m from peru i want to ask you something….why does (in peru’s neopets.com)there is not: a mc donalds shop or a disney theatre or a cereal adventure or a shop of offers? i really liked them when i went to united states…it was really a good time but here in peru thee are not all that things and i have my neopets acount 7 years ago and nothing new apeared!!! please can you try to put them please! i beg you
    a big kiss
    ana paula

  24. I still play neopets sometimes. I’m 12 and lately the owners haven’t been monitoring as much. Boards aren’t deleted when spam is there and there are games that are rigged. People hack into other peoples account, steal all their items, etc. And when we contact the owners it takes a while until they actually do something. It seems to be slowing down. Just my opinion.
    (‘ve been playing since I was 9 and honestly the old neo was better!)

  25. I have been playing neopets for nearly 7 years. The site goes from bad to worse on a daily basis. When neopets was brand new, we were promised that there would never be adds on the site. Now the site is full of adds and corporate sponsorship. We are constantly being advertised at. We were also promised that real money would never give players an advantage over players that could not afford to spend money on merchandise. Now all of the plots and site events have special tickets you purchase to participate in additional events. The regular site event prizes are buyable with the game currency (neopoints). The prizes earned with extra events that people pay real life money for are unique to the site event. There is no customer service associated with any of the real life money that is spent. I used to have neopets mobile. A glitch in the way the mobile feature synced with the rest of my account deleted my entire inventory with very hard to come by items. The staff never responded to my bug report except with a cookie cutter, so sorry, we don’t restore items lost in glitches. Seriously, don’t waste your time with this site. Take all the money you would spend in merchandising and neocash and spend it on a bettter game like world of warcraft or a console game.

  26. Oh, and the actual number of users isn’t really 25 million. That is misleading. Every person can have up to 4 or 5 accounts total. If you assume that every person has 4 – 5 accounts that only makes about 5 million actual flesh and blood users. Spend time surfing the site. These days the number of users online at any given moment never goes above 40,000. How does this site take a census? Do they count accounts frozen due to breaking the TOS, inactivity, and people that got tired of the poor customer service and just iced their accounts?

  27. Previous workers associated with the site have insinuated that the only way to move up in the company was to become a scientologist. This would clearly violate federal anti-discriminatory laws that are currently in effect.

  28. Sorry to say, I agree with Tara on pretty much everything. I used to play between 3 accounts almost daily, but with all the changes that it went gone under I’ve gone almost a year or so without bothering to check it. It just doesn’t hold many positive aspects anymore with Neocash and over-advertizing. I wish well to those who stick with it, but I’m over playing this game.

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