What I learned from Club Penguin

So, Club Penguin Island is closing and honestly I am ok with that. The concept of the game was cool, and something I wished I could have played when I was younger, but it was plagued with development issues and instability.

When Disney announced a couple years ago that it was shutting down Club Penguin, I was pretty disappointed. I  wrote about it too (on my previous blog). Club Penguin was one of the games that got me into programming, and therefore something that I have a great attachment to. Other than the fact that the MMO was a fun place for me to have fun online, and channel my inner-ninja, it also inspired me to learn how the game was made.  Sure, I was already playing Minecraft and learning Java in 2011, but Club Penguin was something special because it taught me so much about web development.

I started my first website, a Club Penguin fan site, following a Tinkernut tutorial. And that marked the beginning for me. I quickly picked up HTML, JS and CSS; and would later launch a site with Club Penguin related flash games. Sure, I am not really not as interested in Web Development today, but I use those skills in many of my hobby projects. But there were also other things I learned to do through Club Penguin, such as use Cheat Engine. I used to spend hours trying to figure out how Cheat Engine worked, and used it to gain thousands of coins (I had over like 500,000 because I was super cautious).

And I am not the only one that has benefitted greatly from Club Penguin, there are many others, for example, Michael Sayman.

Club Penguin used to be the world's largest MMO, and a goto place for kids to play, and chat with people on the interwebs. So when I heard the news, I got involved in to bring it back with the reverse engineering community. But, I wasn't as upset, because I was happy that there was at least a successor mobile game - something that I initially had a lot of hope for.

Unfortunately, Disney really messed up the whole execution of the mobile game, and effectively killed the franchise. I always knew that the online version of the Club Penguin game would close, not because of popularity, but flash. So, I was happy with the fact that Disney had decided to develop Club Penguin Island as an app with plans to launch on computers, because that was something that was more sustainable.

But the fate for Club Penguin Island was sealed as soon as it became clear that it was a paywalled-subscription game. Compared to Club Penguin though, Disney was offering a good deal. So why did it fail? Because Disney failed to recognize its core audience, and hid their product from customers.

Although Disney was offering a good deal (comparatively), no one knew about it. You see, the moment you logged in and setup your penguin BAM paywall. Key difference between Club Penguin and Club Penguin Island? Club Penguin was a free to play, and people were still able to enjoy the game without purchasing a membership.

But it's understandable that Disney would make such a mistake. Afterall, the mobile gaming market is a completely different market, and their only app before this was the Club Penguin App that didn't offer purchasing plans and featured an experience similar to the online version of Club Penguin. What's really not understandable though, is Disney's efforts to address these issues. It was as if, they just let the game die.

Let's take a different angle for a second. Disney also failed on capitalizing on massive online impressions. Following the announcement to close Club Penguin, Disney was receiving great attention from people. The sunsetting of Club Penguin and launch of Club Penguin Island didn't transition as smoothly, leading to poor conversion of impressions. Not only that, but Disney didn't even invest in converting those impressions to customer.

Overall, I honestly didn't expect anything less from Disney. They had a great franchise that they managed to destroy because of their poor business plan and execution. I mean, it's not like we have seen this before pshhh...noooooo (Spectrobes, Epic Mickey, Split/Second, Disney Infinity, insert every other game Disney has developed here). With the closure of Disney Interactive Studios in 2016, this, thankfully, marks the end for Disney's horrid venture into games. Although disappointing, there is a lot people can learn from Disney's failure, and thanks to the efforts of the reverse engineering community, people can still enjoy Club Penguin in its glory days.

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