Neopets: is virtual pet website returning, which games are coming back, new features - and how to play
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In a piece of surprising nostalgic news, Neopets is gearing up for a triumphant return with its 25th anniversary approaching next year.
Neopets is an online virtual pet website that was launched in 1999 by British developers Adam Powell and Donna Williams. It gained significant popularity during the early 2000s, especially among children and young adults.
The website allowed users to create and care for virtual pets called (the titular Neopets), play games to earn virtual currency (Neopoints), explore the virtual world of Neopia, and participate in various activities like quests and contests.
Neopets was known for its engaging gameplay, social interactions, and the ability to customise and personalise one's Neopets and their surroundings. It fostered a strong sense of community as players could communicate with each other, trade items, and form alliances or guilds.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
How popular was Neopets?
At its peak, Neopets had over 70 million registered users, making it one of the most significant online communities on the internet. The website's success led to its acquisition by different companies over the years, including in 2005, when media conglomerate Viacom acquired Neopets for a reported $160 million (£124 million).
But as time went on, the popularity of Neopets started to wane, and several factors contributed to its decline. One significant reason was the rise of other social media platforms and online games, which drew the attention of the target audience away from Neopets.
Additionally, the website faced some technical and management issues, leading to a decrease in user engagement and updates. The site's continued use of Adobe Flash - widely used for web-based interactive content and games during the early 2000s - made it incompatible with newer devices and browsers as more modern and secure alternatives emerged.
When is Neopets returning?
While Neopets has always still existed, it has lost much of its former popularity. It's estimated that the website only has several hundred thousand users.
Neopets' team had been working to transition away from Flash and update their platform to use more modern technologies, but the process of migrating an extensive website with numerous games and interactive elements is a complex and time-consuming task.
But it is now promising a "new era", with $4 million (£3 million) in funding allowing it to remake the site and bring back 50 vintage games on Tuesday 25 July. The site has said a management buyout agreement means the website is now an independent business - World of Neopia, Inc - without a large corporate owner.
"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," it said in a blog post.
"The Neopets Team is, for the first time in over a decade, equipped to make meaningful changes in pursuit of a Neopian renaissance."
On Thursday 20 July, Neopets intends to launch its "new era" with a revamped homepage. It will restore 50 of the website's classic games five days later, with plans in place to fix "many of the most beloved games" in the future.
Those who grew up with Neopets during its peak and have fond memories of the website will no doubt be thrilled to see its return, but if Neopets successfully adapts to modern technologies and trends, it could also attract a new generation of players.
The team say they "want to design a game that’s more in line with what the community has been asking for," and have "rolled up their sleeves and set out to foundationally transform the project into something entirely different by bringing on additional designers, developers, and writers to help craft a game that the Neopian community would embrace."
"Most recently, the decision was made to transition to a mobile app and rebuild from the ground up as World of Neopets, a social life-simulation game in which you live your ideal Neopian life from the perspective of a Neopet!"
If you're interested in playing Neopets, simply open your web browser, type in the official website address, and you should be able to access the game and create an account to start caring for your virtual pets and exploring the world of Neopia.