Update: The Neopets Team has put out a response to the protest, apologizing for the disappointment and dismay that the NFT project has caused, and especially for the misbehavior of the project's social media team. They have stated that the social media channels will be managed more responsibly moving forward. While Jumpstart is still moving forward with the NFT project, I think this is at least a step in the right direction, and a big win for Internet civility.
Today I'd like to bring awareness to a matter of professionalism, respect for a fanbase, and good business conduct.
The virtual pet website Neopets was a huge part of my adolescence and young adulthood. I loved the thoughtfully-crafted world of Neopia, its abundance of enjoyable activities and events, and the ability to explore it alongside colorful companions of my own making. Perhaps some of you have similar fond memories, or even still play the website. (I still write fanfic for it, despite not having submitted anything to the Neopian Times in quite a while, because the lore and my own Neopets just made that much of an impact on me.)
Unfortunately, troubled times have come to Neopia. The website was sold to another company a few years ago, and that company has been making one questionable business decision after another. Their latest project, however, really takes the cake. They have revealed plans for a large offshoot of the website called the Neopets Metaverse. While details about the Metaverse are still scant, the big news is that it will involve the usage of randomly-generated NFT (non-fungible token) Neopet images.
- The actual Neopets website that many players have been devoted to for years is in serious need of back-end technical upgrades and new creative content. It's frustrating to long-time players to see company resources go not to any of these, but to a rather extravagant-sounding new project.
- I don't think any player would actually say they want NFTs. Not only are the images completely randomized (and thus most of them would look horribly mismatched), but one of the main draws of Neopets is the ability to create and customize your own Neopets' species and appearance. From the start, the fan community has been opposed to the Metaverse project. Why go forward with something your own players clearly don't want?
- This game will be entirely pay-to-play. One of the things that made Neopets so big in the first place was that it's always been a free website. While the site contains ads and has a shop where you can buy (mostly cosmetic) items for real money, 99% of the myriad things to do on the site are free. In the Metaverse, everything will cost real money. Who in their right mind would call that a quality player experience?
- The Metaverse team - or at least their social media representatives - are communicating in an extremely rude and inflammatory manner. As just one of many sad examples, when the website Jellyneo organized a weekend-long Neopets blackout to protest the Metaverse, the Metaverse team responded by posting a tweet calling them haters. I am not sure who they are trying to impress by insulting and alienating their franchise's own player community, but it certainly isn't their franchise's own player community. Do they really sound like the sort of people who have their players' best interests in mind?
Countless players of the Neopets website find it a welcome haven from the stresses of everyday life, and a place where they can connect with others and enjoy a safe sense of community. This Metaverse project threatens to ruin that by making a mockery of everything Neopets stands for, and taking away precious resources from a website that has been technically and creatively ailing for too long.
However, together we can show the developers that this kind of unprofessional conduct is unacceptable, both for Neopets and for other franchises. The players deserve better than this, and we can set a precedent for the gaming and media industries in general.
Here's what you can do to help:
- Don't spend money on Neopets. Don't buy Neocash, don't make in-app purchases on the Neopets: Island Builders app, don't buy any real-world merchandise.
- Boycott the website. Don't let Neopets get ad revenue from your page views and don't let them have your site traffic, either. They don't deserve it the way they're acting.
- Spread the word on social media! Like I said, even if you or your social circle doesn't play Neopets, this is a very important issue in the general realm of gaming and entertainment. If enough people raise their voices and convince Neopets to stop this pathetic cash grab project, other companies will take note. And if you enjoyed Neopets at all when you were younger, maybe do it for the sake of fond memories.
Together, we can do this! #NoNeoNFTs
(Artwork is my own; you may recognize it from the Art Gallery.)