If I mention Neopets to anyone in their twenties I can expect one of two reactions.
“Oh! I used to play that.”
“Does that site still exist?”
Yes, Neopets still exists and it looks almost exactly the same as it did all of those years ago. In fact if you imagined it in your head when you were reading this and then went to the website. Here, I’ll even link you.. It’s basically the same. The website is outdated, clunky and a rather broken mess. The games consist of flash games and shockwave games that you can’t even play anymore unless you have a relic of a PC in your home. It is in desperate need of an overhaul but that’s not going to happen as the staff is more or less a skeleton crew focused on keeping the website up as opposed to adding any substantial content.
Whew, that sounds rather negative coming from someone who still plays the game. It’s just when you get to the stage where some of your Neopets are older than your Twitter followers, you have enough experience with the site to critique the nitty gritty. Does the fact that they seem to forget to release things for the pet days bother me? Yes. Or the fact that they news often has typos in it? Yup. Or the fact that they added a sixth pet slot for premium members ages ago yet the premium page still references five pets? You bet. That said, there’s a lot I do like about Neopets. (…and it’s not just because I learnt HTML to code my pets pet page.)
The reason I was attracted to Neopets as a child was because I loved animals and owning pets. It was a cool interactive way to do that and my school friends were all playing too. I could even play flash games at the same time. The reason that I still play Neopets now is that I am still invested in virtual pet games. I frequent a few different sites and I run Tamagotchi’s quite often – currently an ID. Neopets gives me the most in depth experience out of any virtual pet site that I’ve played.
The Neopets themselves can be customised to your own liking. This involves dressing the pet up with clothing, wigs and adding backgrounds and other items. I daresay this is the most popular thing to do on Neopets and where JumpStart makes most of their money as naturally all of the good items are bought using their currency NeoCash. Admittedly, I enjoy a good customisation. I have spent money on NeoCash unashamedly as it’s just another game to me.
When customisation became a thing, the staff changed all of the Neopets dynamic poses into universal poses so that the clothing would fit pets en masse. Some pets had the option to keep their original pose or change it to the new one. These original pets are called unconverted pets or ‘UC’ and they are very sought after. If you don’t have one it’s almost impossible to break into ‘UC’ trading. Having an ‘UC’ is considered to be an ultimate goal of most people who play. There’s guides for how valuable each ‘UC’ and you’d be surprised how much people are willing to pay to own one. The Neopets ‘black market’ is quite the thing to behold. ‘UC’ Neopets can go for over $200USD depending on what they are and how well they are named. Some users are too scared to even own one due to the fact that people hack into your accounts to steal the pet and sell it. It’s pretty intense. I am lucky enough that I do have an ‘UC’ but I keep it on my side account.
Neopets has a pretty in depth marketplace that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Now, in 2018 there are SO many items that it’s hard to keep track. You can buy items from a wide range of shops, barter with the shop keeper and then you can use it or resell it to make a profit. The inflation rate is always changing as well. I find that this works really well; it’s basically a living, breathing system. Restocking can be both boring and very rewarding. It feels good when you finally nab an expensive potion or plushie. It’s a bit frustrating going up against autobuyers (which is a problem Neopets has had for as long as I remember) but you do still get lucky sometimes!
I love to collect things. Neopets is good for that. There’s awards for reading books, eating food, game trophies, avatars, galleries and more. All of these things make my little heart happy! There’s nothing more exciting to me than ticking an item off a list and getting closer to my goal. In this regard, everyone who logs onto Neopets can be doing their own thing. No too people have the same goals and it’s fun to see what everyone does. You can look at someones profile and see tonnes of game trophies or a high avatar count, they might have a killer gallery or really love customising their pets. Or you can be like me and just be mediocre at all of it.
The community is still going strong. There’s some amazing people and some… interesting ones. I don’t tend to post on the actual forums too often but I love the community outside of the website itself. The friends that I have made through r/Neopets and the Discord have made playing Neopets a lot more fun. Speaking of those interesting characters. In regards to the before mentioned ‘UC’ pets, there are people who spend all of their free time making big lists of what UCs exist and what accounts they are on and check every day to see if they move. There’s Tumblr’s where people out other players if they have a ‘UC’ they don’t know and they report them instantly. It’s pretty scary! I couldn’t imagine caring that much about what pixels other people have. I definitely don’t get involved in that kind of drama.
The accessibility is another factor. I’m on my laptop A LOT. I’m a third year university student and I have to spend most of my days studying. When I give myself a ten or twenty minute break, it’s just so much easier to change tabs to Neopets than to go boot up a console and play a game. The convenience keeps me coming back time and time again.
All in all, I do still enjoy Neopets. I strongly believe that it needs an overhaul. In its current state I can’t see it attracting new players. Most of the player base either never stopped playing or came back years later due to nostalgia. At the very least it needs a mobile site. It’s 2018! If JumpStart don’t do anything to boost interest in Neopets I can see it slowly becoming a ghost town. Which would be a shame! I remember the McDonald’s toys, the games, the board games, TCG and plushies. It was a phenomenon and whilst it will never return to it’s prime; with some love I think it could have a resurgence.
Let me know if you still play!