Neopets was one of the hottest destinations on the World Wide Web of the early 2000s, but the audience for its virtual pets has been in decline for years now. Neopets itself has declined, too, admit its developers, who say they've had to "work tirelessly just to barely keep the site afloat" while operating at a loss for the past 10 years. Things are going to turn around soon though, say the devs, because for the first time since 2005, Neopets is an independent company again.
Viacom bought Neopets for $160 million near its peak in 2005, and in 2014 sold it to US edutainment company JumpStart, which was later acquired by Chinese game developer NetDragon. For undisclosed reasons, NetDragon shut down JumpStart last month, and Neopets might've gone with it had it not been saved by a "management buyout deal," according to a blog post from the newly reorganized Neopets development team.
That team is part of a new company called World of Neopia, which is led by Dominic Law, the executive who was previously in charge of NetDragon's Neopets Metaverse NFT project: a Neopets NFT collection and an in-development blockchain game. According to the blog post, Law led the effort to rescue Neopets from the JumpStart shutdown, resulting in the buyout that allowed the old Neopets team at JumpStart and the Neopets Metaverse team at NetDragon "to combine forces and become an independent company" with Law as its CEO.
"Free from the corporate baggage that existed in the past, the newly united [Neopets team] has now been entrusted with the decision-making and overall brand strategy of Neopets, enabling them to work solely on the betterment of the entire Neopets game and community," reads the announcement.
"Transitioning away from" NFT game
Despite Law's previous role as the head of the Neopets NFT game—just a few months ago he said that Neopets has "all the right ingredients for Web3 gaming"—and the $4 million in funding Neopets received from crypto companies earlier this year, the now-independent studio says it's immediately "transitioning away from" the Neopets Metaverse NFT game. Instead, it'll reuse some of that game's assets in a new mobile game called World of Neopets, "a social life-simulation game in which you live your ideal Neopian life from the perspective of a Neopet." For now at least, World of Neopets will not include NFTs or cryptocurrency.
"The Neopets Team has taken a close look at every nook and cranny of Neopets, and after doing so, the decision has been made to transition away from the Neopets Metaverse game and redistribute those resources to the development of a game that we feel can better reflect our values and vision," reads a notice on the Neopets Metaverse website.
The company adds that the existing Neopets Metaverse NFTs "are all still available on the open marketplace" and that it'll "continue to support the Web3 community that has embraced ownership of these collections," but doesn't indicate what that support will be aside from keeping a Discord server open. It hasn't, for instance, told NFT owners that it'll give them any kind of consolation bonus prize in the upcoming World of Neopets game, which it says "is NOT built on a crypto model."
Aside from working on the new mobile game, World of Neopia says it will work on the original Neopets website, where it's apparently already fixing bugs and reviving games that were busted by the end of Adobe Flash support. "Don't worry, the Neopets.com that you know and love isn't going anywhere; in fact, there are great things on the horizon for the classic virtual pet site that started it all," reads the announcement.
On July 20, a new Neopets homepage will launch, and the devs say it'll include a roadmap with more details on the future of the nearly 25-year-old virtual pet game. There's quite a bit more on the future of Neopets in today's big blog post, too, including news of "an exclusive virtual concert," "a brand new plot," and a giveaway to celebrate this "new era" of Neopets.