Neopets: A Stark Reminder of How Important Modernization Is

It's been a while since I last posted - adjusting to a post-grad schedule has kept me quite occupied. I just wanted to pen something that arose out of a small nostalgia trip: Neopets, and how the former entertainment giant is a stark reminder of how important it is to constantly upgrade yourself, and to keep in touch with modern trends in order to stay competitive and relevant. I wanted to share this because I felt that this topic bore plenty of relevance to all my readers, both old and young. This especially goes out to my readers who are fresh graduates, or who might be taking their first step into the working world soon - you have youth on your side, so don't get complacent.

If you were born in the '80s and '90s, and happened to use the fledgling Internet, you probably played (or at the very least, heard of) Neopets, a Pokemon-esque game website that allowed you to own pets, train them, feed them, and battle them. A player-run economy allowed players to buy and sell items for whatever price they chose. For many of us, this was our first introduction to things such as banking (the concept of interest), capitalism (player-owned shops/open market), supply/demand (players jacked up prices of medicine when there was an outbreak of disease), and inflation (rising prices).

This was the "Central Hub" as I recall it in 2002. You will notice the presence of a bank, a pharmacy, and an auction house. For many young children, this was a safe introduction to "adult life." [Source: neopets-archeology]

It was a huge hit. It was so successful that it managed to release lines of plushies, stickers, and toys. It was addictive-as-hell, too. It made you keep coming back every day, just to play the games to earn NeoPoints (currency), to collect interest from the bank, to train pets, etc. Storylines and quests were developed that involved millions of players in plots and battles where their collective efforts could turn the tide of events. 

Codestones (above) were scarce, and were used to upgrade pets.

Dubloons (above) were more easily obtained, and were therefore cheaper. Prices of these commodities were set by players on the open market, and could fluctuate across weeks/months. The player-run economy was a huge portion of the game.


Eventually, a real-money currency called NeoCash was added, which allowed players to spend real money to obtain rare outfits and bonuses for their pets. They were probably ahead of their time - this formula was (and still is) repeated in many online games a decade later. Even big, blockbuster-level developers have implemented real money transactions in their games.

With such a winning formula, one could definitely be forgiven for thinking that Neopets would stand the test of time. Unfortunately, player numbers dwindled, and the Neopets name doesn't even come up in conversations nowadays. Truth was, it faced a new generation of competitors - smartphones enabled mobile gaming, and kids nowadays have access to phones and tablets. Neopets had the right foundations for success, but it didn't change with the times. As a result, it was left in the dust. Unfortunately, a dwindling playerbase continued to plague the site, as old players left for other ventures, but no new players filled the void. A large portion of the development team was laid off in 2015. 

This is the same "Central Hub" in 2018. The only thing that has changed after 16 years is the artwork. No change in accessibility, mechanics, or gameplay. [Source: Neopets wiki]

Imagine what could have been for the company behind Neopets if it had embraced a new generation of players with their smartphones and tablets. There was a huge profit-making opportunity that I felt the company missed out on - maintaining playerbase levels would possibly give rise to higher NeoCash purchases. There was slight talk of a transition to mobile gaming, with a game called 'Ghoul Catchers' released onto app stores, but the game failed to become a hit on its own. Games were still the exact same Flash games released in the late 90s-early 00s. The site has also not been optimized for mobile/tablet usage, which tends to be a big no-no nowadays. 

This was what I wanted to talk about - it is not a bad thing to upgrade oneself to keep up with the times. Nowadays, sharing economies (where consumers 'share' assets) like Uber, Airbnb, and Ofo are extremely prevalent, while retail platforms like Alibaba facilitate the movement of millions of goods without actually owning any inventory. 

We are in a digital age, where information comes and goes rapidly. Flexibility and adaptability is one key element to survival in such an age. To my readers - your competitors are not only the people who are more informed that you. They are also the people who know how to access the right information faster than you and deliver the appropriate results. For example, those of you who are looking to enter/swap careers into jobs related to finance or treasury banking should brush up on your skills with Excel - computer literacy is now often a question that comes up during interviews for positions such as these. Things like V-lookup and Pivot Tables would be useful to know. Get used to apps like LinkedIn for professional connections, and market yourselves through these platforms. 

Thanks for reading, guys. Have a good one.

Until next time.


Creed

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