Disney’s Club Penguin — the multiplayer online game that has kept kids entertained for more than 11 years — shut its doors for good at 12:01 a.m. PT on March 30.
But Disney is hoping that instead of lamenting the closure, which was announced in January, the game’s millions of fans will flock to the sequel: Club Penguin Island, designed from the ground up for mobile devices. To encourage users to migrate to the new app, Disney is chopping the price. Club Penguin Island is available for a $4.99 monthly membership subscription, whereas Club Penguin had cost $7.95 per month (or $19.95 for three months).
Club Penguin Island retains the core gameplay foundation of the legacy social game, while introducing a modern 3D design and enhanced features, according to Disney. In the new game, players can make friends and interact with other players, embark on quests, earn special rewards, and take on daily challenges to level up their penguins.
The new game’s updated chat function features unique emoji and 3D animations, and expands penguin-customization features with a “fashion-forward” range of outfits and accessories.
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“Club Penguin Island was designed for the next generation of players who have grown up on mobile devices,” said Kyle Laughlin, senior VP of apps and games for Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. “The new experience offers players the fun and social elements we know kids love, while maintaining the safety features parents have come to trust.”
Disney acquired Club Penguin in 2007 in a deal worth up to $700 million — although it ultimately paid half that, after Club Penguin failed to hit certain profit targets. The company is not disclosing how many Club Penguin subscribers it had, but at one point the site had 200 million registered users.
Why is Disney making such a disruptive change? The upkeep of the old Club Penguin platform was becoming prohibitively expensive, said Jim Molinets, Disney Interactive VP of kids and casual games. “The investment required to sustain the current version would have been massive,” he said. “The viability of Club Penguin was the main concern for us. We think it has a ton of legs.”
Club Penguin Island also gave Disney the opportunity to optimize the massively multiplayer online game for mobile. That meant changing from a landscape-based orientation in the old game to vertical portrait mode. “It’s hard if you’re a kid to hold a tablet in landscape mode,” Molinets said. With the new app, “kids don’t have to stretch their fingers across the tablet.”
Disney also is emphasizing the security and safety features of Club Penguin Island, which includes a new safety moderation system with a chat filter. Players will have access to familiar reporting tools to let them self-moderate the community. (Getting kicked off Club Penguin for bad behavior, incidentally, became a game unto itself in some quarters.)
The new game app was designed by the Club Penguin team in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, which is the same group that developed the original game.
“The main thing has been to provide an unlimited potential for play that is inclusive — to let kids connect with each other and engage in self-expression,” said Rebecca Warden, producer for Club Penguin Island in the Kelowna studio.
As part of enhancing the role-playing experience, Club Penguin Island includes a contextual quick-chat menu as “conversation-starters,” Warden said. For example, if a player walks into an area with a campfire, predefined chat options might include phrases like “Does anyone have marshmallows?” or “Does anyone know a ghost story?”
It’s been a bittersweet time for Club Penguin crew. “Many people have been here since the beginning, and they’ve really poured their lives into Club Penguin,” said Warden. For fans and employees alike, she said, “it was important to have a thoughtful and elegant goodbye.”
A longstanding bit of Club Penguin lore was that somehow, with the right combination of actions, the iceberg in the game could be tipped over. “Kids had theorized about that for literally years,” Warden said. As part of the sendoff for Club Penguin “Classic” launched in February, the game’s designers finally revealed through a trivia challenge how to tip the iceberg over. Players who succeeded at the task found a message underneath that said: “Together, we can build an island, create a community, change the world… even tip an iceberg. Waddle on.”
The Club Penguin Island app is now available on Apple’s iTunes App Store (at this link) and Google Play (at this link). Users can try out Club Penguin Island with a seven-day free trial. The game can be played in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Watch a promo video for the new Club Penguin Island game: