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Club Penguin

Club Penguin gets $4.7 million online safety campaign

MMO Industry, Club Penguin, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, Kids, Family

Club Penguin
Games for kids need to be safe for kids, and recent news about Habbo highlights the importance of this. In the aftermath of concerns raised in that community, Disney has decided to launch an expansive safety campaign for its popular Club Penguin title. The campaign will spend $4.7 million to target not only the children who who play the game but also parents through advertising on various media including websites, magazines, television, and in the game itself.

Club Penguin co-founder and Executive VP of Disney Online Studios Lane Merrifield emphasizes the company's stance on the importance of online safety and that education is a key element. Merrifield states, "From the very start, our vision for Club Penguin was to create a safe place for my kids and their friends to play online. The scale may now be bigger than I could ever have imagined but that philosophy has not changed. As an industry I think we can help teach kids the lessons that they need to become responsible digital citizens."

MMO Family: A parent's look at Club Penguin

Club Penguin, Browser, Casual, Kids, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family is your resource for leveling a gaming-specced family, from tips on balancing gaming with family life to finding age-appropriate online games for everyone in the family.

Perhaps the leading name in virtual worlds aimed at the younger set, Club Penguin has taken its place as the starter game of choice for many a young online gamer. Ask around any elementary school, and you're bound to find kids who're playing this Flash-based browser game.

We'd heard of the game too, of course -- but we'd never played. So let's take a look at how this virtual world of waddling friendlies stacks up against the rest of the kids' games we've reviewed in our Parent's Guide to Kids & Family Gaming.

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A cautionary tale of account security in Club Penguin

Club Penguin, Legal, Virtual Worlds, Family

Many MMO gamers have children who are eager to jump into the online world but are unaware of the dangers that lurk there. While many kid-friendly MMOs have systems to guard children from unwelcome contact and identity theft, they still require the assistance of parents to teach their kids how to be safe in games.

The Ancient Gaming Noob's Wilhelm recently shared a cautionary tale involving his daughter, Club Penguin, and a breach of account security. Even though she was cautioned not to share a list of details with anyone in game, all it took was the offer of a special item to get her to give up her account name and password to a stranger. This resulted in a headache, as the account was banned, and Wilhelm went back and forth with Club Penguin to re-establish his daughter's account and security. In the end, he found that Club Penguin's security was just as questionable as his daughter's judgment, and passed this story along to the rest of us in an effort to guard our own young ones from this unfortunate event.

Considering that account security, personal identity and privacy are hot topics these days, we feel that this story is an eye-opener as to how far both game companies and families have to go to protect our loved ones from being exploited. You can read Wilhelm's full account over at The Ancient Gaming Noob.

Disney Interactive shows overall loss, Club Penguin gains profits

Business Models, Club Penguin, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Kids

Disney ventured into the world of casual MMOs for kids back in 2005 with Virtual Magic Kingdom. While VMK is no more, the Disney staff responsible for those MMOs are no doubt patting themselves on the back this week for making that leap.

Disney released its Q1 2010 earnings earlier this week, and Disney Interactive Media -- a division that covers console, handheld, and PC/online games -- reported profits down 29%. The standout in these numbers was MMO Club Penguin, which saw "strong growth in paid subscription contributing to better results," according to SVP and CFO Jay Rasulo.

This follows the trend toward casual games as of late, and is serving to help steer Disney away from high end console games. Disney CEO Bob Iger says "we're going to continue to make games for the high end, we'll be very, very judicious in how many and which ones we choose."

MMO Family: Virtual worlds for kids

Club Penguin, There, Habbo Hotel, Gaia Online, Barbie Girls, Kids, Moshi Monsters, MMO Family

MMO Family is your resource for leveling a gaming-specced family ... From tips on balancing gaming with family life to finding age-appropriate niches for every family member, MMO Family offers you advice on MMO gaming of the family, by the family and for the family.

Nestling somewhere in between MMOs and social networking, virtual worlds are a virtual sandlot for millions of kids worldwide. Think avatar-based chat and mini-games alongside other kids of the same age range and interests, and you'll catch the appeal of these kid-friendly destinations. While a gaming parent might consider virtual worlds mere training wheels for games still to come, kid-friendly virtual worlds seem to fit the attention spans, chatty nature and niche-y interests of kids to a T.

The sheer variety of worlds appealing to children makes it easy for kids to find a spot where they'll want to hang out. As of early 2009, kids could choose from 112 virtual worlds designed for children and teens, according to Engage Digital Media, with more than 80 new worlds under development. The numbers of kids who've found a virtual home in these worlds rivals even the fat figures of MMO big dog World of Warcraft. Research firm eMarketer estimates that in the United States alone, 8 million kids hung out in virtual worlds regularly during 2008; that number is projected to swell to more than 15 million by 2013.

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TurpsterVision : A Class Act

Video, Club Penguin, Opinion, Browser, Casual, Humor, TurpsterVision, Kids

I wont bore you all with words and phrases strung together to create some form of coherence, instead I will jump right back in! I am extremely proud to invite you once more to join in with the fun right here at Massively that is TurpsterVision!

After last time trying to sell you all on a new form of entertainment media, I thought I'd return to something a little more traditional. Something that all the MMO fans out there, all the World of Warcraft fans, could really get behind. A game that's on everyone's lips and dancing right into their hearts. That's right: Club Penguin.

Join me below the cut for a special deluxe edition (complete with tuxedo) of TurpsterVision!

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E308: Disney Interactive Studios shows off Club Penguin on the DS

Expansions, Game Mechanics, Club Penguin, Virtual Worlds, Kids

At E3 today, Disney Interactive Studios announced their lineup of new titles releasing later this year. All of these titles were developed with family in mind, and most are exclusive to the console market. Yet, in relation to MMO news, they've also shown off their new Club Penguin expansion which will be released for the Nintendo DS.

Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force will introduce kids to all new adventures in the Club Penguin world. They will be able to connect with friends via DGamer, Nintendo Wi-Fi connection and ad hoc play. They will be able to wirelessly connect with the existing virtual Club Penguin world using the Nintendo DS to unlock special features and upload coins to their online penguin account. Elite Penguin Force is set to release just in time for the holiday season later this year.

The Social Gaming Summit: Casual MMOs and Immersive Worlds

MapleStory, Business Models, MMO Industry, Club Penguin, Casual, Academic, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids

Friday the 13th: An inauspicious day for the superstitious crowd, but a great day for attendees of the Social Gaming Summit, held in San Francisco. The day saw a schedule full of great panels, populated by some of the industry's finest movers and shakers, among them representatives from Gaia Online, Nexon, Three Rings, and Gamasutra, among others too numerous to list here.

A particular highlight of the conference for this blogger was the panel entitled "Casual MMOs and Immersive Worlds", which provided a lively discussion on what it means to create a virtual social space, how to monetize free-to-play content, and what exactly is a casual MMO? Trying to divide attention between listening raptly and taking notes is difficult; here is the result, along with the panelists, after the jump.

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Club Penguin's screen-size conundrum

Club Penguin, Opinion, Browser, Casual, Kids

For those not keeping up on their Club Penguin developments (and why not, it's a fairly amusing and eminently kid-friendly flash-based browser game), they've recently implemented a new "Big Screen" version of the client. The gameplay area used to be about 760x480 and now clocks in by default at a robust 910x575 (rough estimates using our Print Screen-fu), allowing us to see our online penguin counterparts in greater detail and clarity than ever before.

Much to our surprise however, there was not universal praise for this graphical upgrade. Mesagirl over at Ten Ton Hamster lamented the larger size playing field, saying higher resolutions are for the elderly and that the bigger size gives her headaches after extended play. They ran a little straw poll to get readers' thoughts on the subject, and the vast majority of them agreed with us that the bigger size is a positive development. It's a moot point anyway, since you just change the screen size with a push of a button. You don't hear most people complaining about the default resolutions for games like Age of Conan; the same rules apply here in this blogger's mind.

Are Club Penguin's days of growth numbered?

Business Models, MMO Industry, Club Penguin, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Kids

An interesting report on social media by the Nielsen group recently found that Club Penguin, the kid-friendly browser-based MMO acquired by Disney last year for a robust $350 million, may be plateauing or even declining in growth in the face of newer, more competitive social media experiences. While the Nielsen methodology is never made expressly clear (and no direct competitors managed to crack the Top 10), the report does indicate that using the same methodology, they found a 250% growth rate year-over-year just last August.

MMO vet Raph Koster is less than surprised by this development, attributing the slight decline in unique visitors more to the increased competition in that space, rather than any specific detriment in Club Penguin itself. Raph speculates that we'll continue to see the market fragment as more kiddie MMOs enter the market. And, judging my store shelves these days, they're coming in droves. While he seems to be of the opinion that the days of these niche MMOs competing in the same arena as MySpace and Facebook are over, that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of money to be made and kids to be entertained.

Has the MMO industry been irresponsible with children?

Culture, MMO Industry, Club Penguin, Casual, Kids

Frustration and disappointment was squarely behind the creation of the kid-friendly online space Club Penguin. Co-founder and general manager Lane Merrifield was sick and tired of the MMO industry's "cynicism" when it came to children. Merrifield and his partners went forward with the gamespace as a side project, a world unsupported by VC money or expectations.

GamesIndustry.biz sat down for a chat with the man, and delved into the context behind one of the most successful kid-oriented titles on the market. In his words, he'd be "silly" not to be surprised by the game's runaway success and the purchase by Disney. The human element, he offers, has been critical to their success. "Merrifield also thinks that there is an over-reliance on technology that ignores the human element, which is why they've decided to devote two-thirds of the company's staff to positions such as safety moderators and customer service. 'We know the limits of technology, even though I would put our filtering software up against anybody's, especially because of that human element - we're adding 500 to 1000 words every day to the filters, simply because of slang that works its way into the language.'"

The Daily Grind: What's a good first MMO for a child?

World of Warcraft, Culture, Game Mechanics, Guides, MMO Industry, Club Penguin, Opinion, Toontown Online, Webkinz, The Daily Grind, Gamer Interrupted, Kids

Our Robin Torres writes a column called Gamer Interrupted, about mixing real life with gaming, and it's a wonderful read. In a recent post, the subject turned to how to make MMOs more child-friendly. A few specific titles were covered as well, including WoW and ToonTown Online, but it's worth asking if there are other good first MMO titles that are not only child-safe, but actively worthwhile for a kid to play, either alone or with a parent.

Obviously, we can mention Webkinz and Club Penguin, but are there others? Are there, in fact, any non-child MMOs that are safe for children to play?

The future of Disney Online: An interview with SVP Steve Parkis

Fantasy, MapleStory, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Club Penguin, News Items, Toontown Online, Habbo Hotel, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Hello Kitty Online, FusionFall

Last week, Disney Online merged multiple online divisions into a single entity now called Disney Online Studios. I had a chance to talk to the Senior Vice President in charge of it all, Steve Parkis, about the vision for one of the world's most recognizable brands as it tackles the fast-rising casual online gameplay market.

Before now, Disney's online efforts spanned over many different areas: developing Flash based casual games; acquiring the online community, Club Penguin; and building the successful family-oriented MMORPGs ToonTown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Steve's mission is to bring all of those together to make Disney.com a dedicated casual games destination.

He believes that casual players are more than just Women 35+ and that there is a large, untapped market of players that Disney's brand can draw in. But how does he plan to do that?

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GDC 08: Entertainment content convergence in online worlds

Business Models, Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Club Penguin, Second Life, Webkinz, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage), Gaia Online

We spent most of Monday ensconced in the GDC Worlds in Motion summit track, which made "standing room only" seem extremely spacious -- most of the sessions were packed to the gills and then some. It seems like more than a few industry types are interested in the intersections between gaming and virtual worlds. Case in point, the following session we've paraphrased (hopefully not too liberally!) from Reuben Steiger, CEO of Milllions of Us, a company that builds marketing campaigns and content for virtual worlds.

Reuben: Storytelling is the bedrock of human culture. (Looking at a slide with a real campfire on the left and a user-created campfire in Second Life on the right) -- users in virtual worlds are recreating this storytelling tradition. I'm going to make a contention: the internet has failed as a storytelling medium. Instead, the norm is bathroom humor and ridiculous jokes.

So virtual worlds: are they games or not? What defines a game -- linguists and semioticians get real worked up about it. The audience might say "virtual worlds are games without rules, competition, goals or fun." And it's hard to blame them. Extreme openness has defined virtual worlds, where fun can be in a way you define as opposed to what some game developer feels is fun. But the appeal of virtual worlds is that we can tell stories on a broader and less walled playing field.

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Mickey goes online as Disney invests in Virtual Worlds

MMO Industry, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Club Penguin, Toontown Online

The Virtual World News site took the time to pick through an earnings call from the house of Mouse, and found that Disney had a ton to talk about when it came to Virtual Worlds. From comments made during the call by company President Robert Iger, their purchase of Club Penguin last summer and the launch of Pirates of the Caribbean Online was just Disney clearing its throat. In addition to an online world based on the film "Cars", the company plans to spend some $100 million on virtual worlds in the coming years.

Iger clarified that there were a few reasons for Disney's shift to the virtual. First, the company's franchises are being re-examined for new opportunities. VWs fit in nicely alongside plush dolls, action figures, and kiddie clothing in a marketing agenda. Second, it's much easier to develop and staff a virtual world than it is to design and build a new theme park attraction. That's historically been the only place fans could really get 'inside' their favorite Disney products, and Virtual Worlds are a nice alternative. Finally, he notes that for a younger audience online worlds are just plain more important than they are for older generations. Yet more evidence of the growing cachet of online gaming.

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