Disney Interactive has shuttered its Club Penguin virtual world, a top subscription-based destination for millions of kids for the past 11 years to launch a new mobile version called Club Penguin Island. The subscription-based app has been designed with plenty of video game experiencing, allowing players to embark on island quests, earn special rewards, and take on daily challenges to level up their penguins.
Liza Wood, executive producer of Club Penguin Island, told [a]listdaily that over the years, Disney has seen a shift in kids’ play patterns from desktop to mobile, particularly on Club Penguin.
“We understand that kids are now playing more on mobile, so it was important for us to invest in a Club Penguin experience designed for these platforms as the next chapter for the virtual world,” said Wood. “Mobile games have amazing potential and continues to be a company priority.”
Disney is charging Apple and Android gamers a $4.99 monthly subscription after a seven-day free trial. “Like in the classic game, kids can download Club Penguin Island for free to socialize, role-play and participate in activities around the island,” Wood explained. “The $4.99 subscription gives kids unlimited access to all the features such as the all-new Adventures and Clothing Designer. At $4.99 per month, this is a better price point than the legacy desktop version (of $5.99), making membership even more valuable and accessible.”
The legacy PC experience was showing its age after a decade, which allowed the development team to start from scratch with the new mobile version. Wood said the team was empowered to create a fully upgraded, enhanced experience for mobile.
“Every aspect of the player experience was considered,” Wood said. “The vibrant world of Club Penguin has been upgraded to a beautiful 3D world. We learned that playing in portrait orientation worked best for small hands and designed all our cameras and controls for that. We have also enhanced the chat system with contextual quick chat and a wide range of colorful, expressive emoji. For example, if you’re sitting by the campfire, ‘Do you know any ghost stories?’ will be an option in the quick chat. The new Clothing Designer introduces even more possibilities for kids to express themselves by customizing their penguins.”
Club Penguin Island’s primary audience is kids 6-to-12-years of age. According to Wood, it’s more than a game. It’s a global community. With kids playing on mobile, it means they can engage with their penguin community wherever they are, at home or on the go.
“We’ve built this new Club Penguin experience from the ground up, especially for mobile,” Wood said. “We wanted the experience to be really accessible, which meant developing the game for portrait mode so kids wouldn’t have to stretch their fingers across the screen for long periods of time. From a design perspective, the game has been upgraded to a 3D environment, making it even more immersive and visually appealing. It was important for us to modernize the experience for a new generation of players who are now being introduced to games on mobile devices first.”
Disney acquired Club Penguin back in 2007 for $700 million. The virtual world launched in 2005, attracting over 12 million users and more than 700,000 paying subscribers by 2007. That number ballooned to more than 200 million users by 2013. More recently, Club Penguin’s audience had shrunk to about 5.6 million monthly visitors in December 2016, according to SimilarWeb. There’s no public data on how many of these kids were paying subscriptions.
Over the years, Disney’s brand has faced a lot more competition with targeting kids with services that include YouTube Gaming, Lego Life, Lego Worlds, PBS Kids and Nick.com. Wood said what separates the Club Penguin brand is that it’s a global community that transcends borders.
“Community engagement and socialization have always been important,” Wood said. “We are always listening to the community feedback and implementing changes. As a result, we have a community that is active, passionate and inclusive.”
Disney is marketing the game through a brand new website that will be updated regularly with game highlights and news. The game’s community manager and Club Penguin celebrity, Bobbi, also hosts a new video series: “Island Insider” that is featured on the CPI blog and YouTube.
“The series will address community questions, provide sneak peeks and communicate major product updates,” Wood said. “You’ll also see Bobbi out and about at events and hosting in-game meet-ups as her penguin, Megg. For our 13+ audience and parents, we have active community portals on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.”
For the Disney super-fans, the developer has integrated some exclusive content in the in-game Disney Shop. Players can try on and buy items featuring popular Disney and Pixar franchises, including Frozen, Finding Dory, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc.
“In addition, we are working with key divisions across the company to partner on exciting initiatives throughout the year,” Wood said. “More on that to come!”