Neopets was a long-time staple of the late-90s/early-aughts internet, for perhaps longer than any brightly colored, kitschy virtual pet community deserved to be. But the basic principle made sense -- get some pets, grow attached to them, invest a ton of your time and energy in their virtual upkeep. It worked on me (I made my first AOL email account so I could sign up for Neopets, and occasionally feel sharp pangs of unprompted guilt over leaving them unattended). It's one of the most commonly referenced sites in A/S/L, our feature on the early internet habits of folks in their 20s and 30s. But as of a few weeks ago, Neopets appears to finally be... mostly dead?
Olivia Coy dives deep into the history of Neopets for The Kernel, the Sunday magazine of The Daily Dot. You can read the whole story here, but here are some single-serving highlights to consider:
Neopets was sold to Viacom in 2005 for $160 million
Not that this wasn't public information before, but if you grew using
Neopets, then moved on, it might be a little jarring to come face to
face with the financial realities of what your childhood was
subsidizing. Several years after its peak, Neopets sold -- in 2005 --
for a staggering amount.
The community experienced hyper-inflation
Over time, Neopets found itself in the unenviable position of replicating Weimar Germany, printing (or mining, or producing, or whatever) way,way too much of its own in-game money -- the Neopoint --
to the point where high pricing froze out new users who couldn't pay ten bazillion Neopoints for accessories.
Co-founder Donna Williams is actually pretty up-front about many of the site's failings in a Reddit AMA
This is some of the most fascinating stuff in the Kernel piece -- the Neopets founders seem to be relatively aware of what went wrong, but are still thankful that their creation, originally from the Geocities era of internet, has lasted so long. Maybe we shouldn't cry because Neopets is over -- let's smile because it happened.