Neopets and Selling Out

I know I promised the Bundy book but I’ve got to talk about this Neopets thing first.

Years and years ago, which is what a lady says when she doesn’t want to reveal her age, I played on a site called Neopets.  I started soon after it began.  I was in high school.  I was a hardcore Neopian.  This was in the dial-up days so any website based game where you put in a lot of time meant a lot of patience and effort.  You’d wait for that beep beep beep urgghghhh beep sound and hold your breath until you were connected.  If you play, you’ll notice some of the older users mention that days where you could talk to Adam and Donna, the creators.  And it’s true.  It was really cool being part of a community of people.  Because back then, it was more like a family.  Guilds were close knit.

I ran my own guild.  I did trivia and scavenger hunts and gave out prizes and I loved it.  I loved sharing the items that I earned.  I made friends.  One friend that I still have today.  I’ve loved watching her grow up and fall in love.  I wouldn’t know her without Neopets.  I’ll always be grateful to Neopets for that and that alone.

I also had the first plushie and the first notebook.  I thought it was oh so neat that my game had real life items.  Seeing my pets in plushie form was beyond cool.  Seeing the site that I loved take off was amazing too.  Slowly more players joined.  New rules were made to accommodate everyone.  New games were put out.  New challenges.  New worlds.  Remember the first day of the Omelette?

I played for hours a day.  When I went to college, it was fun to come home from class and relax and play my daily games and restock my shop and take care of my guildies.  My mom sent me along with her old Gateway when she upgraded and I had my trusty phone line to dial in.  I spent a lot of time in the campus computer labs too since their internets were faster and I could catch restocking faster.

Life took over and I stopped playing.  College got harder and life got harder.  A few years ago, I decided to pick back up again.  By this time, Viacom bought the site.  I was iffy because big business means less care for the players.  I caught up fast and started to notice the differences from before and after the buy out.  Or as I call it, the sell out.  People’s accounts would get frozen for no reason.  There was little investigation into these frozen accounts.  Even if you’d spent real world money on items, if you were frozen, you were screwed.  The boards started to ban words like vampire and Twilight.  Really?  One wrong word on the board or even in a private message could get you frozen.  Hours and hours of work lost.  Items lost.  Neopoints lost.  There was this thing called sniping.  While you couldn’t say “democrat” or “republican” you could profit off someone’s mistake.  If someone posted an item in their shop for 5 neopoints on accident instead of 50 or even 50,000, you could buy it.  It’s an encouraged way of making points.  For a while, shops didn’t even show items bought under a certain amount of neopoints so you couldn’t politely pm that person and ask for your item back.  There was less respect, less of a family vibe.  Guilds weren’t the same either.  Everything had to do with neoCASH.  You buy a points card and you can buy items.   The point of the game for me was that I earned points.  I was a college student on a budget and while I was happy to buy a plushie now and then for a special occasion, I didn’t have $25 to spare every week for hot items.

What made me want to write this was a few weeks ago, I thought about going back.  I’d lost interest about a year and a half ago.  I canceled my premium account (yeah you can pay to get better stuff) but assumed that my safety deposit box and bank account and pets would be safe until I was ready to play again.  Especially since by this point, I’d spent a lot of money on points and real life items.  I’d been married by then and I had income and my dog really liked their plushies.  Surely someone who spent $$$$ in a year on their site would believe their account would be safe and sound when she was ready to play again.

I logged in today.  All my pets but one had been given up for adoption.  Items, hundreds of items are gone.  Millions of neopoints are gone.  Bank account gone.  Friends list gone.  I considered emailing them but they are pretty clear on that.  Once they delete your stuff, it’s gone.  It’s weird that they kept one of my pets and my username and I can still log in.  Besides, if people who’s accounts got unfairfly frozen can’t get their stuff back, they won’t care about mine.  I googled a little and they are still unfairly freezing accounts.  Once they get their money, they don’t really care about you.  I wonder how Adam and Donna feel.  Viacom bought the site for $160 million so I’m guessing they feel fine.  Adam and Donna got married.  They opened another company.  I don’t know if I could walk away from something like that.  That meaning the family they’d created.  The users that faithfully spent hours playing and supporting the site so they could sell it for millions upon millions.  I guess it just proves that if you throw enough money at someone, they’ll sell out.  And what does Viacom care?  There’s a ton of new users for every old user that gets fed up and quits.

I could be snarky and say that they obviously haven’t created anything as great as Neopets since they sold out in 2005.  I wonder if they wish they hadn’t.  But a part of me says if they could turn over their amazing creation to a company that would no doubt commercialize it and merchandise it and ruin it, they probably don’t care.

I won’t be back.  Neopets will never be the same again.  You can’t go backwards and I wont be part of a company that doesn’t care about the people putting money in their pockets. But I’ll always have the memories of Kiko Match and Jelly World, my guild and the people I had the privilege of meeting because of the game.   And really, that’s all that matters.

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One response to “Neopets and Selling Out

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