Wednesday 20 October 2021

#NoNeoNFT (2): the Neopian government's role and the future

Kacheek is one of my earliest Neopet. The other is Meerca.

We consider the developer/Neopian government as a stakeholder than they keep on producing goods and sell them at a rate much lower than the market price. They also give out lots of freebies to stabilize the low end economy. When necessary, they give out top tier items worth hundreds of millions of NPs to other players.

Human players would not do that.

It is a fact that the Neopets team has not been doing a great job recently: they didn't push enough updates amid of the flash dump, and many traditional events were removed. But in theory, this economy works, and works under the supervision of the developers.

The existence of such centralized government is directly contradictory to everything NFTs or blockchain based platforms are trying to achieve.

Or rather let us shape the question in this way: we know that the NFT setup would not be beneficial when it comes to the need of a strong lead, then what's the other advantages that we should take the NFT setup over traditional platforms, or even just to rebuild the original site?

Fundraising for OG Neopets? Yeah people "claim that some are ready to pump millions in" but what next? Is the money really entering Neopets' pocket assisting the development?  Is it a consistent source of income? Who's gonna invest if old players hate the idea? Would it be another scam just like the recent scandal on old game cartridges? These are questions the metaverse doesn't like answering.

Community driven content? Maybe and maybe not. Neopets as of now is already full of community driven contents. Game mechanics are of course not community driven in Neopets as they shouldn't be anyway.

More importantly, if we have the metaverse with completely new contents "for Neopets", is it the Neopets that we desired? Or is it just another game that contains the once beloved Neopets-images as a selling point?


Commercially Neopets is never a great success as everyone would have thought with respect to its popularity. 

The first 5-10 years of Neopets coincides with the PC era. The game gained so much popularity across people of that generation and outlasted (many) other virtual reality competitors. However they weren't generating as much influence as expected: almost all merchandising were in America. NeoCash was introduced as early as 2006 but barely inaccessible to most because online payment was not a thing back in the days. The translated versions of Neopets got discontinued during Neopets' golden days despite its great popularity among those countries.

The game quickly declined when the PC era shifts to the smartphone era. The company was sold to JumpStart (is it the one making educational CDs back in the days?) in 2014. They made some changes to the UI, promoted NC and made also some app version of Neopets which were all immediate failure.

We could see that the development of the game failed to keep up with the Internet trend. When NPAPI was going to phase out, they took no action but replaced the development team completely. When flash was also going to be discontinued, they replaced the team again, this time with a much smaller one. It is completely unsurprising to see that the recent development cycle is slow and hopeless. 

But so what? Neopets remains to be a precious part of many's memories or even life. As long as Neopets stands we still love the game and will play the game (even that many of us are not paying for NC). What we love is the existing Neopets world and the community around it.

We do not need a completely new metaverse and a completely new community. We do not need to reform Neopets in the form of NFTs.


The problem remains though...what should the developers actually do? The Neopets model was barely good enough in the past and certainly dwindling in 2020s. If we want the game to exist for another decade or so actions must be taken quickly.

To me the core community is still passionate as before and it's really up to the developers to decide the fate of the game. 

The thing that people complained the most is to merge the old and new UI. I expect the new UI to be a move of upgrade to renovate flash based contents, but they are doing that at a miserable rate. Many of the overworld contents aren't even flash, they are just simple html or php pages, yet those pages aren't compatible with the new UI. 

Games are the main source of flash based contents to be upgraded. Granted it is not easy to rewrite those in HTML5 especially when no one in the team were involved in the flash games' development back in the days. The feeling are off for a number of games, even for Kass Basher and the Ice Cream Machine. 

To replicate a flash game in HTML5 is not easy for sure, and they even need to worry about security problems -- writing scripts for HTML based games is easier than ever. If they feel like replication is too hard, maybe they can take a lesson from Kongregate and make new HTML5 games as well? Differentiating from the old games can certainly avoid the rage against not replicating the games properly. New games or not, Neopets urgently need more on that.

Once Neopets shooks off the flash burden they can probably go back to the state like 2017. Not the best game in the world, but people will be happy to pay for decors and PVP items.

What would I expect? The metaverse project won't go too far with the big opposition power and all the drama they created. But Neopets aren't going to change either. They survived 2020 (financially), and they will probably this year. Although with more problems accumulating plus the drama this time, the critical moment for the game is probably somewhere before the end of 2022. If they do not take action it's probably the end of the game.

I can add another 1000 words talking about my Neopets experience here, but this article is probably long enough. If you are interested in the movement make sure to follow the news on reddit and the hashtag on twitter :).

Further reading:

Jelloneo's protesting page where you can "mint" yourself a Neopet. At the bottom are a few more further reports. The grurge against NFT is real, but admitted there are slight misunderstanding about cryptos here and there. Take with cautions.

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