Neopets game unveils relaunch plan under new owners
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Neopets game unveils relaunch plan under new owners

School’s out, and you’re patiently waiting for Internet Explorer to buffer on your family computer. The year? Some time in the mid-aughts. Your destination?, obviously.

Since it first launched in 1999, Neopets has been home to millions of internet users taking care of virtual pets, playing games and spending virtual currency, providing many nineties and 2000s kids with their first foray into online gaming. While its heyday was nearly two decades ago — it had a reported 25 million users worldwide in 2005 — active user numbers have dwindled and unrepaired glitches have plagued its remaining fan base. The discontinuation of Flash in 2020, on which many of the site’s features depended, didn’t help. A brief foray into cryptocurrency didn’t prove able to salvage the site, either.

Neopets on Tuesday unveiled bold plans for the game’s relaunch, centered around a new homepage that goes live Thursday, and new games and new plots starting Tuesday.

“We want to bring Neopets back to its glory days,” the company said in a blog post. The relaunch follows a change in ownership and an influx of $4 million raised from investors earlier this year, it said.

Here’s how it worked: Choose between an array of dewy-eyed, mythic Neopets to adopt as your own. Explore the kaleidoscopic 2-D world of Neopia through the eyes of your pets, playing mini puzzles along the way. Furnish your 2000s-aesthetic Neohome. Nourish your pets by grabbing slices from an infinite omelet. Adopt pets for your Neopets, known as Petpets. You get the idea.

The site has changed hands multiple times, with community numbers dwindling to 100,000 daily active users in 2020, the year Flash was discontinued, which caused key features of the site to cease functioning. For the last decade, the site was operating at a financial loss, denying its developers the resources needed to overhaul the site and fix its mounting problems, the Neopets team said Tuesday.

Flash is dead. These games from the early 2000s hope to live on.

Neopets’s rebrand, the team said, will be loyal to the site’s origins. The website’s operators will now focus on reviving the popular minigames that once depended on Flash to function, and abandon plans to integrate cryptocurrency or NFTs into the game. Users will also be introduced to a new mobile game known as “World of Neopets,” the company said, describing it as a new “social life-simulation game” that promises to let you “live your ideal Neopian life from the perspective of a Neopet!”

“This magical community deserves to thrive, not just survive. Thanks to our new leadership direction and the fresh source of funding, it finally can,” Neopets said in its blog post, adding that new developers and artists had been hired to fix issues plaguing the site.

“The Neopets Team is, for the first time in over a decade, equipped to make meaningful changes in pursuit of a Neopian renaissance,” it added.

Joseph Miller, a 25-year-old college student in Houston, has cared for close to two dozen Neopets since adopting his first creature in 2007. “I was hooked ever since,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday, while multitasking with Neopets on his browser.

He described himself as cautiously optimistic about the Neopets’ future, following the announcement: “There are a number of critical features that have been long requested by the community. Those need to be addressed, but it wouldn’t require a radical revamp of the site.”

“It would be nice if most of the site stays the same,” he said.

“I always like to think of Neopets as the original social media platform.” The site, among the first geared toward younger people with an online community forum for exchanging messages, preceded Myspace, Facebook and Twitter by years.

The appeal of Neopets, Miller argues, is how welcoming and genuine its community is — a far cry from many social media sites today. “With a lot of social media nowadays, a lot of people are concerned with politics and being on the right team,” Miller said, whereas “with Neopets, people are just a lot more concerned about expressing themselves.”

“It feels a lot more genuine,” he said.

(Miller’s oldest surviving Neopet is a 4,077-day-old Eyrie named Baliscious, whom he adopted in 2012. But his favorite is Koboro, a 126-day-old grey-colored “Bori” with wings, resembling a mixture of a butterfly, an armadillo and a deer. On Wednesday morning, Koboro was famished and in need of feeding.)

“The people who still stuck around all these years, we’ve formed like a small township … it feels very familiar and nostalgic. It’s nice,” he said.

“I am beyond excited,” another active Neopets user, 32-year-old Alexandra Kane from New Orleans, said of the relaunch in an email to The Post.

Kane adopted her first Neopet when she was in middle school, using her local library computer. She has since gone on to care for around 20 virtual pets, she said.

“While Neopets is a game site with virtual pets as [its] focal point, I think it’s true value is a time capsule of the early 2000s and early internet culture,” she said.

“It’s a real snap shot of my youth and what the world was like at the time,” she said. “I think people still enjoy the nostalgia of the site and the lore that was created back in the day.”

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