This is a great, in-depth interview with Lance (rsnail) and Chris Hendricks (Screenhog) from Club Penguin historian Carphon:
Update: since Carphon’s blog is not available now, I’ve quoted the content below.
Waddle On: A Club Penguin Documentary
Including interview: Screenhog and Rocketsnail
2000 – 2015
Let us waddle back in time, back to 2000. The legacy of Club Penguin started on a sunny day in July of 2000 with “Experimental Penguins”. It was a virtual chatroom developed by Rocketsnail Games as a test for Flash 4. Players would join the game as a blue penguin and chat with other users in snowy rooms, having abilities ranging from driving a snow trekker to wearing a santa hat, It was quite neat for that time! The rooms were quite empty, but they were decorated with objects like a broken down trekker and street posts. There were no chat filters on this MMOG, therefore users had free speech for the time being. The game eventually shut down late that year, though they weren’t exactly done yet. Just before shut down, the game had 2,000 users play it daily. After winning a few amount of awards for the MMOG, Rocketsnail decided to give the game another go, creating the Penguin Chat series.
Alas came Penguin Chat! The first chat opened up in January of 2003, displaying a graphically better player sprite and some animations including the ability to throw snowballs with aim. In contrast to Experimental Penguins, Penguin chat introduced the well known blue toolbar. Though limited, it introduced emoticons, sitting options, Snowballs, and many more. The emoticons of the time stayed for a very long time, and the others held a lot of inspiration for future updates. With Flash 5, Rocketsnail Games had the ability to add stuff that couldn’t be added without technicality in the previous MMOG. When entering the servers, you popped up as a blue penguin with a registered name. Guests were given green names and were labeled with numbers such as “Guest4″. The last Penguin Chat would be launched for beta on March 31, 2005. The last server introduced new socket server technology and solved many of the previous problems hosted in previous versions, which would really help in the future development of the next installation. The MMOG went on for 2 more trials before the plug had to be pulled, though once again, not permanently. They labeled their newest version as the “BIG update”, and didn’t really release any new information on it.
It was a normal day on August 22, 2005, though a launch was to occur that would impact the computer gaming industry forever. After a series of games from Penguin Chat 1 to Penguin Chat 3, the “Big update” was finally unveiled. On August 22nd, All users of Penguin Chat 3 were asked to jump aboard onto the newest leg of the journey, Club Penguin. It was roughly the installation of Penguin Chat 4, but much different and more exciting. Within the months following, the moderators would slowly introduce themselves. With Club Penguin came incredibly decorated rooms, which was quite new at the time compared to the originals preceded by it. The island was small yet vast, but it was growing quickly. It was time for this penguin series to finally become it’s own thing, and Club Penguin was it.
Thus marked the beta testing. The primary goal of such event was to go through every nook and cranny of the small island (at the time) and report any bugs that you find. It was quite exciting for the users, as usually the team held contests for users to guess how many bugs were found from what changed in the game in the latest update. Many bugs were found, and in the end, a party was hosted to celebrate such a success. All of the staff attended the event to friend the users and party. The team was small at the time, holding Lance Priebe (rsnail), Lane Merrifield (Billybob), Nathan Sawatzky (Gizmo), Chris Hendricks (Screenhog), and Holly Hildebrandt (Happy77). The testing would go on for a few months, and the launch was declared on October 19, 2005 to be on the 24th. The team was very excited as this is the moment they’ve been waiting for, and they had incredible amounts of content to showcase to the fans. With Dave Krysko’s company New Horizon Interactive with them, Club Penguin was bound for an experience.
The virtual world would then go through multiple server tests from November 2005 to February 2006, just to be sure that Club Penguin’s servers were up to par. Now that testing was over, it was concluded that parties and Club Penguin go so well together that such a game without parties is ridiculous. With this, came their first major party, the Halloween party of 05’! The game debuted their soon to be contiguous traditional parties such as Halloween and Christmas that year of 2005. It would be in 2006 that they would branch out parties into things like Hawaiian Luaus to even Western Parties. The parties in general were fun for the users because the art of dressing up was so unusually fun and addicting that it became a tradition adding onto the parties; items! There was something missing for customization, though. With discussion, the team launched the first ‘pin’ in March 2006, a four leaf clover that users can put on their playercard for decoration. More customs were born, and the first videos of Club Penguin started surfacing on the web around August 2006. These short videos really merged Club Penguin into social media.
The idea of customization showed up early with the early beta testing but was expanded incredibly in 2006 with many items to choose from. Feet items were introduced in 2006 ranging from black sneakers to even sandals. The full out concept of customization really gave users the opportunity to differentiate between other players with their costumes, as well as their backgrounds or even pins. With the debut of pins, players were allowed to fullow customize their playercard (which is displayed when you click their penguin). After being introduced in March, pins started to become the main attraction in collectibles and really helped tourism around the island as they were well hidden within the rooms. Both the pins and the catalogs adapted a constant weekly/monthly update over time for the users of the virtual world to enjoy constant brand new content. The features were in need due to Club Penguin’s partnership with miniclip in 2006, which would cause a bit of traffic in the months to come.
Many new features were introduced in 2006, let me break it down. A series of events debuted many characters that we still love today, First came puffles. The small, furry pets started peaking into the snowforts in 2005, but were finally available to adopt in March 2006. Penguins like the Penguin Band and Rockhopper really had their shine in 2006, and they opened many fun activities for their penguin fans with their debuts. Rockhopper arrived with his Migrator in late 2006, allowing penguins to explore the ship and even buy his rare items. It has become a tradition since then for him to come to the island, and over the years rumors like “Rock Hopper Island” have sparked among the community. The Penguin band has always showed up at numerous parties, but were debuted at the winter luau in January 2006. The were given rightful character traits later in July 2006, with the western party. Along with these characters, rooms also merged their way into the island. The Plaza, Underground Cave, Migrator, and Lighthouse all debuted in 2006 following events to explain their placement. Finally, for the secret side of town, the PSA (Penguin Safety Agency) Was put into business allowing penguins to join as agents and participate in top secret mission for coins and medals in return.
Most would agree that 2007 was Club Penguin’s year. By 2007 Club Penguin was the talk of the town, and business was prospering. With more than 100 employees (by late November 06′), It wouldn’t be long until Disney would request the purchase of Club Penguin. On August 1, 2007, Disney successfully beat Sony in buying Club Penguin for 350 million U.S. Dollars. Change in Club Penguin was to happen, and some say it was change for the better. Disney first decided that the Club Penguin toys should be expanded beyond just online stores, and worked to get the toys in stores. They also released a series of books inspired by the game itself. From “Stowaway! Adventures at Sea” and “Waddle Lot of Laughs“, users found the plots very entertaining, and the codes inside of them even more! Lastly, Disney devoted a lot of dedication assuring the safety of the users as it should always be a main priority. Disney gave Club Penguin its first rightful advertisement in mid 2007 after no ads have been previously bought the years before. Progression was quick, and it was time for Club Penguin’s prime. Search trends for the virtual world started rising drastically around late 2007 and it was an introduction to a higher populated environment.
Along with the many changes that Disney introduced, a big addition to Club Penguin’s legacy was also added to the game. Coins for Change started in December 14, 2007. It is a virtual charity allowing users to donate their virtual money to real donation money to real needs. Coin placers were put around the virtual world in select rooms for users to decide the amount of coins they wanted to donate. The three organizations who shared the 1,000,000$ donated by Disney were the World Wildlife Fund, Free the Children, and Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. As quite an event, about 3 million penguins donated an incredible amount of 2 billion virtual coins, and that was only the first year! Coins for changed would then become an annual event along with traditional parties, and the organizations donated to would eventually become wider with a larger amount. Though the coins for change started in 2007, the game has been supporting charities since mid 2006, this concept just really expanded it. Coins for change is great in the fact that it shows hope and faith, and lets users make a change in this world and that’s an important concept.
In this same year, Youtube and WordPress were brought into the picture of Club Penguin, where fans would make videos and fansites devoted to Club Penguin. Music Videos and game cheats surfaced in the beginning of this year and these activities never wore out. Certain Club Penguin videos would become one time hits but eventually certain users would keep releasing hit videos causing them to become virtual celebrities within the world. Many of these virtual world celebrities include ShyTwice, Ox485, and Wwe adam, who are some of the pioneers who started the custom of music videos in the game itself around 2008 and the hobby never really died, as eventually music videos would become a widely-loved custom in the Club Penguin saga. Many of the original cheat sites still stand aswell, including forums like ClubPenguinFansite and Pengspace, the Club Penguin Myspace. Both date back to March 2007 in the Archive Machine. These two sites are examples of the earliest “social media” for fellow penguins. The forum held discussions from the PSA to general CP discussion, and has been active ever since. This one site is just an example of how users really adapted to the game and willingly expanded it.
Clubpenguinfansite in October 2007.
By 2008, Club Penguin started to show change due to Disney’s ownership, but the potential was still sky-rocketing. Minimal things like graphic changes and parties were introduced in 2008 and the users loved it. Disney did a good job maintaining the whole party concept with things like the Music Jam. During this year Club Penguin had an extreme new user amount and it was astounding. Parties started to become incredibly large because of this, full of adventurous locations. During this time, Club Penguin blogging got some growing recognition, and even gave some fame. Not only did bloggers display cheats to the parties on their blogs, but they also linked fan videos and funny content. The idea of Club Penguin blogging never really died down, and even originals still post today. Though CP blogging started in 2005, it really picked up in this year and really stayed in popularity.
Most notable for this, 2008 held a new beta testing for Club Penguin: CPIP (Club Penguin Improvement Project). On March 10, 2008, the project was launched to code in some very important improvements into the MMO. Players were able to log onto test servers and even meet with the staff of Club Penguin for the time being. While doing so, they were to repeat what was done in 2005, report bugs! The project went on till July, and all participants were given red hard hats. The improvements included Penguin Mail, Big screen, better playercard options, friend list tweaks, and of course a new website design! Club Penguin was moving on from the past from this update, and some found it noticeable. Disney had a lot of faith in Club Penguin and in the same year celebrated their success in progress by hosting a 3rd year anniversary party in the middle of Time Square. It was a real life anniversary as the virtual one was going on at the same time. Participants were given party hats and got to meet Billybob. As it was special representing Disney hosting Club Penguin throughout 2008, it was clarified the biggest Anniversary party in Club Penguin history. Comparing this to the previous years, Club Penguin was now known world wide and their campaign wouldn’t halt then. Disney continued adding to the penguin saga, with Nintendo DS games like Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force. The games allowed penguins to link both accounts and transfer things like coins and PSA codes. It was very neat and wasn’t seen previously.
Going to year 5, the Club Penguin community encountered multiple heart-breaks and plot twists. Two of the most recognizable staff members, Screenhog and rsnail, both left the team to pursue other projects that they’ve had in mind for a while.
Though they would tell the community a year later, there was some suspicion. For the happy part of 2010, many parties and events were brought back that were previously discontinued the past 2 years. Along with parties, the PSA was taken down due to a popcorn explosion by Herbert P. Bear. It was time to move on and improve the agency drastically. The explosion happened in the Sports shop and it took down the PSA and the shop itself. The new company was the EPF (Elite Penguin Force),and the shop was transformed into the “Everyday Phoning Facility“, which was basically a portal to the EPF HQ. Now you’d probably ask, “What’s the difference?”. Surely they hold the same idea but I’ll have to go into detail to really show the detail.
The original agency was the Penguin Secret Agency (PSA), which had its time from August 22, 2005 until it turned out of commission on May 17, 2010. The original agency, after joining, gave users a chance to go on short missions created by the teams where the user would have to work with their boss and other certain mascot agents to unveil culprits of crimes or just solve crimes in general. They were mostly .SWF file room-to-room type missions, but the EPF would eventually change that in the following years. EPF co-existed with PSA for about 2 years from 2008 to 2010, until Herbert would desimate the sports shop with popcorn, because what else would be better than popcorn?
The EPF updated the agents’ phones aswell, and would give them up-to-date messages by Gary, their Technology specialist. The new EPF agency also debuted missions that don’t require step to step .SWFs, and they let users solve them by walking around the island and doing mini games involved with the problem. The leader of both operations would be revealed in 2012 to be Aunt Arctic.
Besides the success, Disney wanted to up the game. In 2012, Disney teamed up with Marvel as a sponsor for a ‘Marvel Super Hero Takeover”. The response from the fans was incredible. It was the first of its kind, and the sponsored events continued. In the following years, Disney would get Monsters University, Star Wars, The Muppets, and even Frozen. The list continues, as the parties tend to be very large and full of excitement. Billybob stated that the team had to work extra long hours for such event, and the effort paid off by getting many responses from companies like USA Today.
By 2012, parties had some pretty intricate storylines to back up what was happening. The event was important in the fact that nobody has ever seen such a concept, let alone even thought of these two companies collaborating. Disney had the right idea with business and merged it perfectly with user enjoyment. The year is most notable for returning every mascot from January to December, which shows Disney started to listen to their fan’s input fully because of their registered Twitter and Facebook accounts, primarily to interact more with the users.
As they say, all good things come to an end. Billybob, aswell as Happy77, one of the original founders of Club Penguin, decided it was time to pass the torch for their staff positions. Both of the moderators posted on the blog about his departure in October 2012. Billybob stated that he’ll be moving on after 7 incredible years, and stated the torch shall be passed to Spike Hike, another veteran user of the MMO. The community was a bit shaken up at the idea, “A new general manager? That’s crazy!” was basically the notion. It showed how much the users care for the MMO. So not soon after, Spike hike made his introduction on the blog the same month showing his past experience and his motivation to make Club Penguin even better. The community quickly adapted to Spike Hike, and he eventually joined in on social media to get a closer relationship with the users. Polo Field got big as well, though he had known the team for a bit before. The two would eventually go on to be the present day pioneers of the virtual world and have been big ever since. It shows how times change in the gaming world, and the only way to go now is up.
Incomes the year of controversy, 2013. The year came with some more sponsored takeovers and new parties, but is most notable for starting the many debuts of puffle species. Most of the parties had special puffles that came with them for users to collect. The idea of puffles was never really expanded until this year, from dinosaur puffles to the gold puffle. Many things were upped in this year that would otherwise remain un-popular. Not only did they expand on puffles, but the concept of EPF was expanded with more parties with the agency as the focal point, which helped recruit more penguins to become agents. They were great strategies and it really leveled out all of the traits of the MMO. The team was mostly renewed with new employees but managed to keep the same concept of Club Penguin, but it changed as the year went on. With all of this, many of the old timers were upset with Club Penguin’s drastic change. The main culprit of this upset was the graphic change and the sudden closing of other MMOs.
The graphics of Club Penguin have always been simple, quickly sketched. Users enjoyed such concept of art and accepted it. In 2013, Club Penguin fully replaced all of the old art with the new artstyle, as it looks more presentable. Though it is for the better, it started some protests because the users argued that the visual nostalgia is non-existent. The graphics remained the same for many years as there was really no point in changing them, though like I said, good things come to an end. Screenhog had left and the art style was thoroughly based on his from 2005 – 2010. This controversy was really the only main negative input by the users, so since 2013 the team does casual throw backs to the previous generation to level things out. Later that year, Disney would close an incredible amount of MMORPG’s of theirs to fully focus on Club Penguin and its future. The list includes Toontown, Pirates online, and Pixie Hollow. I Interviewed Screenhog to really get his updated intake on his time in Club Penguin, as well as his opinion for Club Penguins present day state. You’ll find his views down the line.
In may 2013, Club Penguin certainly changed the game with the launching of the app version of CP, simply titled MyPenguin. It allows ordinary users to log on via iPhone or iPad (at the time) and check on their penguin as well as log onto select servers for the app. The difference in these servers is that the models of the penguins and as well as all of the animations were re-done and given a 3d model and player sprite. This was of course the start of something new: App friendly computer games! The app was incredible due to its compatibility with other languages including English, French, Portuguese, Russian, German, and Spanish, which are all available on the actual virtual world itself aswell. Club Penguin was really successful in getting users to download the app by linking many item delivery systems between the computer itself and the app. Mini games like sushi drops allow players to unlock “rare” items that will instantly transfer to the player’s inventory for future wear. Going through some name changes, the app remained and introduced many more.
While reaching the 10 year gap seems quite close, comparing early Club Penguin with present day would seem as if they are two different games, feature and graphic wise! Mind the going down a bit on views per month, Club Penguin remains the most prominent MMO in the business at the moment. The game has gone a long way, testing to testing, the 10 year journey isn’t necessarily the end. More years are promised in the game, and as Screenhog stated, it might just go on generation for generation. 2014 – 2015 really adjusted the concepts of parties and app friendly versions of the game, introducing multiple Club Penguin related mobile games. The ideas of parties covering the island would be cut short due to the effort of story-line add-ons but a neat task system would eventually be added to cover-up the loss. The Disney team won’t stop continuing Club Penguin’s journey as the game is now a walking inspiration. By 2015 Club Penguin would have the largest staff its had, as well as a stable viewer rate and net worth.
It’s time for some inspiration and origin of Club Penguin, what exactly struck the idea to Lance? 15 Years ago, Lance was employed at New Horizon Interactive. Lance had long had the idea of creating a mass snowball war game involving penguins, but a comic of a penguin slipping on a banana peel would surely verify that he should form the MMOG. Lance recruited his fellow co-worker at New Horizon Interactive to help him out on the idea. That co-worker was Lane Merrifield, better known as Billybob. It was time to consult the boss, Dave. Dave was the go-to at the time, and he said they can go fourth. Experimental Penguins was formed and was really simple yet exciting as Rocketsnail knew it would be something big, but he needed a bigger idea. The two found penguins easily to draw so the concept of penguins was kept. Although some may not know, Rocketsnail went through multiple chats. From Crab Chat to TV Chat, he went through them all. Imagine reading this documentary about “Club Television”! After the multiple penguin chats, Lance Priebe would then be watching the news in 2004 and would get a new idea for their next game; Club Penguin. As they say, the rest is history!
…But not so fast! Inspiration has always played a huge part in the development of MMOs, so it isn’t a shocker that Club Penguin would keep the inspiration and turn them into simple easter eggs and references! One of the most known references in the MMO is the simple Hydro hopper located at the Dock. When entering, your penguin is placed on a tube directed by a boat and you must dodge objects within the lake to not crash. This game is actually a reference to the 1999 Ballistic Biscuit by Rocketsnail games. Throughout the years Club Penguin would keep this easter egg concept and I generally think that’s what made the game special, it showed humor within the staff and fun within the game, and those are two important key factors in an MMO. The staff is great at it too, even rumors formed by the fans around the island aren’t even safe. With the Ice berg tipping mumbo jumbo, the CP team insists that the ice berg can be tipped!
Let’s thoroughly meet the alumni staff, shall we? Lance Priebe was the founder of Club Penguin as well as the sub variants including Experimental Penguins and Penguin chat. Lance created Rocketsnail Games in 1999 which is a developer of flash games. Rocketsnail Games hosted the first few penguin servers until Club Penguin, where New Horizon Interactive and then Disney would take place. Lance has a focal point on innovating imagination within his games. Prior to Club Penguin, Lance created Hyper Hippo, another gaming company. It was founded in 2012 and with the company he is working on a favored game titled Mech Mice. His game products have given him entrepreneur status. As a game developing veteran Lance continues to launch impressive mini games and tactical strategy games. Lance is most known for his Rocketsnail persona, with a plethora of easter eggs planted into Club Penguin referencing his logo.
Then comes Lane Merrifield. Best known as Billybob, Lane really shaped the future and input on Club Penguin and its fan base as well. Joining the team around Penguin Chat 3, he engineered the MMO alongside Lance and New Horizon Interactive. From working at Disneyland to owning a multi millionaire disney MMO, Billybob was really lucky. Billybob was really the one who updated the fellow penguins regularly on the What’s New blog ever since September of 2005. Doing so, he created the incredibly famous “Waddle On!” phrase. After years of moderation, Lane would become one of the most recognized names in the virtual world industry. Lane Merrifield held the president and CEO status of Club Penguin as Billybob for the years to come until the large purchase by Disney, though he stayed another good five years.
Gizmo joined the team as the third employee around November 05′ and took the job of parties, parades, and other similar events around the large island. From 2005 to 2007, Nathan Sawatzky (Gizmo) “built a customer support and online safety (moderation) team from the ground up”, as stated by his linkedin. Most notably, Nathan helped form the global team that you see in present day. Nathan Sawatzky, in a time of change in the game, managed to stay focused and keep up with community support with the penguins and aswell as his staff. In present day, Nathan focuses on photography and independent circuit of businesses started in January 2014. He occasionally appears on the virtual world to check on its progress.
For the musical and graphical side, Screenhog! Chris Hendricks (Screenhog) found an enjoyment in comics and art in 1995 after viewing multiple comic strips. Screenhog hitched onto the development in May 2005 and took the job of art and certain concept sketches, as well as music composition. Chris also made furniture, animated special dances, and created multiple of the well loved mini-games. As an off task, he usually helped plan future events for the MMO. Screenhog left the virtual world in October 2010 alongside rsnail to focus on other projects they’ve wanted to pursue for a while. Knowing each other since 2000, both eventually teamed up to form the growing game “Mech Mice”. Being Club Penguin’s first artist, Screenhog had duties to design party props as well, which would become increasingly less difficult in the years to come with a growing staff.
Blogging has always been a vital part of Club Penguin’s communication with its users, and Holly Hildebrandt, or Happy77, really got to know the users for the many years that she blogged on the What’s New Blog alongside Lane. Joining the team in Penguin Chat 3, her account was neat in a way that her user sprite was known to be a large green snail at times, a reference to rsnail’s logo persona. Happy77 made her first appearance in December 15, 2008 on the blog. Though some may not know, she was very new to the blogging hobby. Moderators like Polo Field and BusinessMoose helped her pick up some blogging skills along the way. Though she left the team in October of 2012, you can still find her giving tours around the Club Penguin headquarters. She would be announced to return in the following weeks of April 2015.
The previous staff members as well as the present day staff members have always kept the concept of Club Penguin incredibly up to date and with pure devotion. So, what exactly have these mods done with Club Penguin the past 10 years? Rocketsnail said it best with his post titled 2015, thoroughly breaking down the basics of Club Penguin. Club Penguin is a virtual service that has been releasing content, every week, since August 22, 2005. Now that’s 10 years of constant content, ranging from clothes, furniture, catalogs, pins, parties, and even bugs fixes for that matter. If you’re not impressed, the content is also implemented into 5 different languages on the same day, mostly without delay. Being freemium, Club Penguin offers content with or without pay. All of this, including server moderation and interaction, is a pretty busy job life. I was able to interview Screenhog once more for a understanding on his days in Club Penguin as well as his take on certain topics that have been buzzing in the community lately, as he has surely devoted a lot of time into the virtual world itself.
What aspects really meant a lot to you while working at Club Penguin?
The fanmail was certainly appreciated. Neat seeing the different ways that people were inspired.
If you had the chance, would you re-experience Club Penguin?
I don’t think I’d want to re-experience anything in my life. There’d be good parts, but I’d also relive mistakes that I made. But I absolutely look back to that job with fondness. It was the perfect job for me at the time, and I learned a lot. There were a few magical years where it was easy to overlook the stress because I still had the coolest job I could imagine.
Do you think Club Penguin really revolutionized Computer gaming?
When Club Penguin launched, it was a sandbox. You just did what you wanted in it, no goals or quests. That was a unique strength. Maybe not all gaming, but definitely MMOs. Biggest evidence is how many copycat games there were.
Lastly, does the idea of CP lasting generations still stand for you?
CP still stands. People have been claiming it’s going downhill since it went to two servers instead of one.
What Screenhog said about how Club Penguin revolutionized computer gaming, (or the MMO section), really struck out to me, but let’s expand a bit on Club Penguin’s roll in the gaming industry. Let’s admit it, Club Penguin has always been the MMO model that everyone who is making an MMO looks at while creating their own, it’s almost a fact now days. Now days it is obvious who and who didn’t copy Club Penguin, but how did this MMO get such an image like this? The game has always had the ideal and supreme features that a game always needs, it just happened that Club Penguin was the first to enforce these things. Some of the main things include no needed download to play and their family-friendly chat.
Screenhog stated this himself, saying there wasn’t really anything like Club Penguin before, and that they had to enforce their own rules. From the chat bar features to the username system, Club Penguin really raised the bar for other future MMO’s to take place, even illegal servers. It’s quite silly if you think about it, “Dress up penguins run the MMO community” is probably the best I’ve seen. Not only features, but the whole weekly content concept I discussed earlier really plays a good roll in the game. I can’t name an MMO in present that delivers weekly content in such a variation as five languages. Disney’s short video on Club Penguin’s history gives a feel on why they do what they do. Gin stated that the notion of it being about the kids will never change, and that the value of Club Penguin is really in the community. You can really sum up from this that the team listens to their players and have always listened since the beginning, and they’ve always delivered what the fans want, in most cases it’s content!
Art style of 2006
As Screenhog stated, fanmail tends to spark care and love for those receiving, which in this case, are the moderators. I’ll say it, the fanbase of Club Penguin speaks talent. The team has been receiving fanmail, (specifically fan art), since February 2006. They were either drawn on paper or through computer, though it was the thought that counted. As the years progressed, talent got more extreme in the community and it really gave Club Penguin a good image. The idea of fanmail is really a good way to interact with the community in a way that isn’t necessarily seen before; as the reason their contacting them is to show appreciation. Developers noted, “When seeing fan mail, it really strikes you how much a game could mean to someone.” Rocketsnail backed this up with my brief interview with him, stating “Fan feedback played a big part in developing the game.”
Fan-mail was always overwhelming for the founders of Club Penguin but the limited fan base for the first three years was limited due to Club Penguin’s Ad free career for that time being. After Disney’s purchase, exploitation of the game was at large. Disney was well aware that previous MMORPG’s have been displayed and showcased at certain expos and events, so in 2008, a year after purchase, Club Penguin made its first few public appearances. Most notable appearances are attendances of parades and short autograph signings with main characters from the game like Rockhopper, Cadence, and even Bambadee, all three in which would rise into even more stardom. The virtual world would work in advertisements primarily between 2008 and 2011, where it would tend things like the Macy’s parade after further book and game episodes. The user rate would reach higher and higher by now. Along the line, the public appearances would eventually become ordinary users’ time worth while. For example, if a user were to meet both Rockhopper and Bambadee in an autograph signing and picture op, They would receive items like backgrounds and even pins. Key concepts like these made Club Penguin’s exploitation into the media quite acceptable by the users.
The public appearances really boosted Club Penguin viewer rate by a mere million within the years to come. During the ad campaign, Club Penguin peaked in viewership and search trends on December in 2010, which is pretty much mission accomplished. From 2005 to this date, Club Penguin really reigned superior towards others MMO’s in headline counts and search statistics. The stats are quite vast within the 10 years but searches started to pick up in late 2006 and boomed in late 2007 due to Disney’s ownership. You can, going back to Coins For Change, tell the system really helped the virtual world as the peak was instantaneous with Coins for Change 2010. Population was booming so more servers were called for in case of overflow. Minding the population boom, you could tell Club Penguin got a good start on their networth in 2010 following coins for change and the first few commercials on select channels.
Enough about the game, the community deserves some recognition. I’ve been around the community for about 9 years now but really joined the social media side in late 2008 and I really got a deeper acknowledgement of the pure talent in the community. The visual above is just a few of the many suggestions that the talented users in the Club Penguin community have whipped up for the staff members to implement into the virtual world. After joining Twitter, it was like a whole new world opened up. Not only talent in great suggestions, but in graphics and even CPMVs (Club Penguin Music Videos). Since mid beta, the staff of Club Penguin have always noticed the sheer talents of the community and at one point displayed them on their website. The earliest was of course the fan blogs, though they may not seem much they really showed devotion and enjoyment of the game. From Pixel Penguins to private servers, the users have always found a way to display their talents.
Now, some of you may not understand what I specifically mean by “community”. An MMO community isn’t basically just normal MMO users, they tend to expand the thought of the MMO by involving it widely in social media and interacting with other people while doing it. Communities like these become technically families. The users have always kept up the penguin spirit independently, that’s one of the many things I’ve noticed during my time in the Club Penguin community.
Going back to the idea that the moderators mentioned in the New Horizons Interactive documentary, I agree to the fullest extent that the enjoyment of the game is all in the community. Websites like ClubPenguinMemories and Monchocho (retired) remain after multiple years of blogging and it really helped Club Penguin’s user rate and even its business overall due to it being the focal point in these so called ads, so it being about the users isn’t all that far fetched. That’s one of the things that stick out to me about Club Penguin, the bond between the users and the developers is quite strong and it really influenced other games to enforce the same bond with their users. It’s quite odd to me to think that the virtual world is turning 10 eventually because it doesn’t seem like it. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?
I’ve learned from Club Penguin that dreams are valid and friendships are valuable. Club Penguin remains as a huge evidence to a close family like community, happy as ever. It’s been ten years and Club Penguin still stands, and there is no doubt by the looks of it that the game might just tear down a couple more years. So here’s to ten to even fifteen years of memories, memories that we’ll carry into our adulthood though it may be in the shape of a virtual penguin sprite. Memories that we’ll perish, and memories that’ll keep waddling with us. I’d like to thank everyone who gave me an incredible 9 years of this community from the bottom of my heart, also to the ones who paved the path to the games success and to those who are still doing so. Club Penguin has been my childhood and I could never let it go.
I’d like to thank:
– Screenhog and Rocketsnail for the interviews
– The entire community
– The close friends that have made my experience one to remember the past nine years
– The game itself, Club Penguin
Clubpenguin.wikia.com (Sponsored events; Character debuts)
Dexria from Xat Forums