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Wizard101 gives away presents for its birthday

Events (Real-World), News Items, Free-to-Play, Kids, Wizard101, Promotions, Family, Anniversaries

Wizard101 gives away presents for its birthday
Happy birthday Wizard101! Starting today, the magical kid-friendly title celebrates turning five years old by offering gifts to players. Besides a confetti cannon to put in their houses, players will also receive other mystery gifts based on how old their accounts are; the longer you've been a Wizard101 player, the more gifts you'll receive!

But why have a birthday when you can have a birth month? The festivities will continue all through September. Until the 30th, there will be decorations throughout Wizard City and special sales in the Crown Shop. Additionally, five new hairstyles and a brand now mount, the Arcus Cloud, are also available.

MMO Family: MMO trends from kid-friendly game conventions

Opinion, Free Realms, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures

MMO Family MMO trends from kidfriendly game conventions
Summer is convention season, and adults weren't the only ones who got to celebrate their favorite games and talk to the developers who make them. Young fans of Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures attended panels at SOE Live, while Roblox fans recently wrapped up the third leg of the BLOXcon tour, which was held in Chicago, London, and New York City. And Minecraft fans scooped up tickets to MineCon as soon as they were made available.

Kid-gamers are a force to be reckoned with, and they can be just as passionate about their games as adults. What can we learn from them about trends in MMOs? Let's take a look in this week's MMO Family.

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Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online sunsetting in September

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Kids, Sunsets

Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online sunsetting in September
It looks as though Disney is going on a good old-fashioned reaping today and culling some of its less-profitable MMO properties. In addition to shuttering Toontown Online, the Mouse House is sunsetting Pirates of the Caribbean Online on September 19th.

The official announcement informed players today of the sad news and explained the decision to cancel this title: "The Walt Disney Company is committed to offering high-quality, entertaining play experiences in both online virtual worlds and mobile apps. At this time, we are shifting our development focus towards other online and mobile play experiences, such as Club Penguin and a growing selection of Disney mobile apps."

The upshot of this is that the final month will be playable for free to anyone interested, and any players who paid up past August 20th will receive an email with details regarding refunds.

Disney's Toontown closing on September 19

MMO Industry, News Items, Kids, Family

Disney Toontown closing next month
Disney's Toontown Online is closing up shop on September 19th. As of August 20th, paid member accounts will no longer feature recurring charges, and memberships are no longer available for purchase. Disney says that all Toons may now play as members for free through the game's closing date.

The announcement post also hints at "Toontastic activities and kooky celebrations" on tap for the title's final month.

[Thanks Master Von SuperJinks!]

Veteran developer Kirk Black Kickstarting new kid-safe MMO

Trailers, Video, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Kids, Family

Veteran developer Kirk Black Kickstarting new kidsafe MMO
Oftentimes, Kickstarter is used by developers trying to break into MMOs. In the case of Enspira Online, however, it's a 20-year industry vet looking to bring his project to the market. Kirk "Runesabre" Black -- known for his roles as lead engineer and producer of Ultima Online, lead dev on Star Wars Galaxies, and more -- has been creating a non-violent, kid-safe game geared for the younger MMO players.

Players in Enspira Online are challenged with reviving and tending the magnificent gardens of the Gnomes, who have been imprisoned by spiders. On top of this, players can build personal islands, own a home, and explore the world by boat for more adventures. Black's goal is to provide a vehicle for kids to experience and learn valuable life lessons like helping others in need and investing in themselves while having fun in game.

Enspira Online is currently in internal alpha testing, and the Kickstarter campaign is to facilitate closed beta. For a look at the game, check out the video after the break.

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Massively does Geek Week: A few minutes of free in MMORPGs

Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, MMOFPS, Humor, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

A Few Minutes of Free in MMORPGs
As MMO players, we know all about being geeks; we're the geekiest video gamers around! Join in the fun today as we celebrate Google's Geek Week with a series of MMO-flavored videos to introduce fellow geeks to our favorite games: Guild Wars 2, SWTOR, The Secret World, and more!

Massively's Beau is fond of many MMOs but has a soft place in his heart for free-to-play indie MMOs. He's conjured up a video in honor of Geek Week to list nine of his favorites to give you something new to try -- something possibly outside your MMO comfort zone! Some require a download and a beefier computer, but most of his offerings could be played on the most basic laptop, so no one's left out. There's even something on his list for gamers of all ages, whether you're a kid of 8 years or 80. Spend a few minutes in free MMORPGs with Beau after the cut!

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MMO Family: Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures at SOE Live

Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family  Catching up with Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures at SOE Live
While we've heard lots of news this past weekend about SOE's lineup of titles for the adult audience, there's an ever growing presence of children at the convention thanks to the popularity of Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures. They might not have as many years of experience gaming as the "grown-up" crowd, but they still had lots of questions and insight to share with the developers of both games. To meet that demand, there were two panels for SOE's kid-friendly MMOs; one focused on the art of the games, while the other talked about some of the ways that the team designs their games around a younger audience. And there was some exciting news about what's planned for the future as well. Read on for the highlights!

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MMO Family: The many ways video games teach children

Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  The many ways video games teach children
Video games get a bad rap these days, but we've looked at several ways that they do redeem themselves. One area in particular is games-based learning, and there are some great games that are helping bring about a revolution in how we look at education.

But there are some more subtle ways that video games are teaching our children, too, and Forbes Contributing Editor Jordan Shapiro has put together a list of five types of learning through video games, regardless of whether a child is playing a serious game or is just putzing around. Let's look at the "other" side of learning through gaming, and see how it's perfectly tailored towards kid-friendly MMO experiences.

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Check out a day in the life of a KingsIsle artist

Fantasy, Screenshots, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Kids, Family, Pirate101

Check out a day in the life of a KingsIsle artist
What's it like to be an artist working on one of the more visually imaginative MMOs out there? Just ask Melissa Preston, the art lead for Pirate101 who wrote an article looking at what a typical day entails in her job.

She says that one of her favorite parts of the day is reviewing the art book to see progress being made: "All of the pieces have to work together to tell a story and they need to be believable in the same world."

Much of Preston's job is coordinating between departments and her own team to make sure that everything syncs up. She also provides a few pieces of concept art with explanation as to the stories behind each. It's an interesting job that doesn't always get the spotlight in the way that other developer positions do, so check it out and learn a thing or two about what artists do for MMOs!

MMO Family: Can gaming boost kids' physical activity?

Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Can gaming boost kids' physical activity
One of the main concerns that parents have about their children's video game playtime is that it can correlate with inactivity, obesity, and a lack of interest in getting off the couch and doing things. And with reports coming out that sitting is the new smoking, they have good reason to be worried. As video games get more and more mainstream and the couch gets used more and more, young children could start to look like those passengers on the AXIOM in Wall-E.

But a recent study by Australian researchers featured in the British Medical Journal may shed a ray of optimism that video games can, in fact, offer opportunities for physical activity after all. Is there hope that younger gamers can avoid a sedentary existence as they grow up? Let's take a look in this week's MMO Family.

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MMO Family: Setting screen time limits this summer

Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Setting screen time limits this summer
As June comes to a close, throngs of school children are free from "pencils, books, and teacher's dirty looks." But the end of school can bring a new problem, as parents and kids battle it out to to determine acceptable limits on game time.

How can parents set limits on screen time and still preserve some sense of sanity this summer? Let's look at a few pieces of valuable advice in this week's MMO Family.

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MMO Family: Study challenges common views on digital media, video games, and family

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Northwestern study challenges common views on digital media, video games, and the family
When it comes to video games and parenting, there are two scenarios that often emerge. The first is that parents, children, and video games are a contentious mix. Parents and children often clash over things like playtime, game content, and the rising cost of devices needed to play. What results is a scenario where the children are constantly pushing for more and the parents are struggling to keep it under control.

The other is that parents have seemingly given up the battle and instead use video game systems and mobile devices as a digital baby-sitter, allowing their children to spend hours each day in front of the screen. So what's the truth? According to a study by Northwestern University, there are some surprising revelations about the real role of digital media in our families' lives.

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MMO Family: A look at Phineas and Ferb's Agent Alert

Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, Kids, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family  A look at Phineas and Ferb's Agent Alert
It's hard to walk by a school or a playground without seeing the image of an aqua-colored platypus emblazoned on a kid's shirt, hat, backpack, or lunch box. Phineas and Ferb, the long-running animated Disney series, has been a big hit with children, so it's little surprise that the tie-in game Agent Alert was launched a few months ago.

I'm not exactly familiar with the show, but when I got an email alert about a new MMO based on the series, I had to check it out. Was I about to head into a world of thousands of player-made platypus characters? I feared the worst but was pleasantly surprised.

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Pirate101 sets sail for Marleybone

Fantasy, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Kids, Family, Pirate101

The game is 78% sharks by volume.
One of the bonuses of having Pirate101 set in the same world as Wizard101 is that the former can benefit from some of the latter's layout. KingsIsle has launched a big expansion for the game that includes some old favorites for veteran players, starting by sending pirate captains to the familiar land of Marleybone. Players will be investigating a war zone they helped inadvertently create while working up through another 15 levels of experience.

The update also adds the new region of Aquila, a new Bazaar system for players to trade goods, and a new tutorial to help players get accustomed to the game. There are also new bosses and transport systems to give players more to do while they sail across the oceans. Last but not least, new companions are scattered through the added regions, and old companions are learning some new tricks. Pirate101 players can log in and start enjoying the update immediately.

MMO Family: First Impressions of World of Trinketz

Business Models, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, First Impressions, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  First Impressions of World of Trinketz
I have to begin this week's column with a disclaimer: I am not a fan of Facebook, and I'm even less a fan of Facebook games. The only one I found enjoyable was Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker because it was a giant middle finger to the bottom-feeding practices so commonly found in Facebook Villes.

But when I got a Google alert in my inbox about the world's first family-friendly 3-D MMO for Facebook, I had to head back to the blue-and-white wasteland of Facebook and see it firsthand. Could it be that the era of isometric views and mindless clicking is finally over? Have we finally moved on from agriculturally themed games? I decided to check out World of Trinketz to seek some answers.

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