The winter wonderland known as Club Penguin officially had its plug pulled last week. After 11+ years of waddling around and meeting new friends, decorating igloos, adopting puffles, exploring parties, and meeting mascots. When Disney first announced back in January that Club Penguin would close in March, people were blindsided. Everyone knew the game wasn’t doing good, but nobody expected it to be shut down so soon. Club Penguin Island is the successor and will be the game that continues the brand. After seeing my childhood game disappear beneath my eyes, I asked myself, “Why did Club Penguin close down in the first place? What happened that caused it to go downhill?”
To learn why, we have to go back to May 2013 when the Club Penguin app was released. Disney knew the market was shifting. Mobile gaming was on the rise. Club Penguin was a browser based game. They knew if they didn’t do something about it soon, the game they paid $350 million for back in 2007 would go down with the ship. So what did they do? They released the Club Penguin app which was essentially a port of the web version.
An early interface
At first, the app was called My Penguin and it was basically a hub where you could change your clothes, play some mini-games, browse your friends list, and throw snowballs at your friends. When they logged on either onto the computer game, or the app, they would be alerted that you threw a snowball at them and you could throw one back. It was a neat little feature. Disney would eventually push out updates which added igloos, more mini-games, and finally in December of 2013, the Club Penguin world itself.
Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, neat! Now I can finally play the full Club Penguin wherever I am, right?” Well, not exactly. You see, the Club Penguin app would never be as full as the original game was. It had many flaws. For one, the overall game was pretty darn laggy, especially on smaller devices. Chatting was a pain, as the keyboard took up half of your screen.
What really killed the Club Penguin app though was…well, the concept itself. It was a carbon copy of the web version which wasn’t made to run on mobile devices. There was not a single advantage to play the app when compared to the web version. Not one. It was lacking features, was not built well, and overall took a lot of time away from what they truly needed to make. A complete revamp. A port was not the answer.
I guess Disney realized this because about a year or so after they launched the app, they stopped working on it entirely. They tried to incorporate parties from the web game to the app, but the experience was repetitive and dull. It wasn’t fun at all to say the least. You were tasked with doing the same thing each and every time. Click the object in the room to earn a prize. The app had no exclusive in-world features that had advantages over the web version.
The Club Penguin app wasn’t the only reason why the game went downhill. The second aspect revolved around the content Club Penguin put out. What made Club Penguin fun was that you got to explore and discover things for yourself. There weren’t super overly detailed rooms, or a boring task system. The game used to have simple storylines that were told in the newspaper, and that worked. Starting in 2014, Club Penguin introduced Puffle Creatures.
I guess their thought process was since users love Puffles, why not give them as many as we can? Unfortunately, Puffle Creatures were a fail. The idea was originally going to be inclusive and deep, telling us the history of Puffles and how they could suddenly change and morph into these “creatures” with distinguished personalities and traits. Sadly, the big idea that the team had was scaled down into the mindset where the goal was to pump as many Puffles out as possible, disregarding why the players loved the furry pets in the first place.
Puffles were ruined in 2014 alongside the parties. Club Penguin is notorious for its parties. Starting in 2014, they changed how parties would work. Instead of logging on and exploring at your leisure, you were told exactly where to go, how to do the task, and how to obtain the reward. This new “do task/get item” system was the death of parties. I am not kidding when I say just about every single party from 2014 to the game’s closure used this system with a few notable exceptions.
Club Penguin overlooked why a party was fun and what drove players to log on in the first place. They gave us parties that nobody wanted like the Muppets Takeover, School & Skate Party, Merry Walrus Party, alongside many others. It just wasn’t the same game anymore, and the degradation of the game’s player base reflected on this.
If you ask me what killed Club Penguin, there isn’t a single answer. Lots of factors were involved. The biggest two for me was the Club Penguin app, and the content that was sent out. Simply put, It wasn’t what the players wanted.
Disney is now focused on rejuvenating the brand with Club Penguin Island, a REAL 3D revamp of our penguin game. This is its last chance. I truly hope they build content that the players want and will enjoy. I hope they listen to the feedback and build a world that the players will enjoy playing and running around in. I hope we will be able to actually speak and communicate with others and discover secrets for ourselves without having to be told where point A is, and how far point B is from it.
Will it succeed? Time will tell. For now though, leave a comment below and let me know why YOU believe Club Penguin died.