In the fledgling days of the internet, it’s hard to think of a website that was as impactful as Neopets. The pet simulator launched in 1999 with everything a growing millennial could ask for, letting you play, groom, and feed your choice of one of 55 different species of animals, monsters, and dragons in an adorable partnership. The hub world of Neopia had even more to explore, with dozens of addictive mini-games packed away in faraway lands full of fairies, pirates, knights, and evil scientists.
In July, it seemed like their prayers were answered when the Neopets Team announced that a management buyout allowed them to spin off from owner Netdragon (who had acquired JumpStart in 2017) and take control of the site with a new vision.
“What happened after the acquisition is that Neopets was left malmanaged and mismanaged over the past six years,” CEO of Neopets Dominic Law told Passionfruit. “Now, there’s a lot more strategic focus, guidance leading the team, and the ability to revive Neopets.”
Law, who spent the past three years on the Neopets team at Netdragon, said that he and his team of around 50 developers have “scarce resources” and a lot to do. They’ve already made some major changes in just a few short months like giving the home page a much-needed facelift, making account recovery a lot easier, and bringing back over 100 minigames that have been unplayable since Flash went offline in 2020.
But that’s only a bit of the work needed to do to bring Neopets back from the graveyard in the spookiest part of Neopia, the Haunted Woods. The team has already started looking at pages that lead nowhere, which litter every corner of the game’s expansive website. Neopoint (the game’s digital currency) inflation is being combatted with Daily Quests meant to increase user engagement and give all players access to rare paintbrushes and items that have become unobtainable and costly.
“Neopets is a 25-year-old infrastructure, and a lot of the foundations are crumbling,” Law said. “We’re not trying to rebuild the whole thing, we’re trying to fix enough of the foundation so that we can build adjacent experiences or new kinds of experiences on top.”
One-third of the site’s traffic currently comes from mobile, though even Law admits that right now the site isn’t very “mobile friendly.” They are working on proving the experience alongside a mobile app, though Law said it will be more of a “tool or gateway” to the main site since it’s not feasibly possible to shove the entire archaic system into a smartphone. “Island Builders”, a new mobile construction game, is planning to start its closed beta in the next year.
The goal of this revamp is to not just make the main site popular again, but to create a whole universe of spin-off games and content logged inside the world of Neopets dubbed the “Neoverse.” Characters like Jake the Kougra explorer, Fyora the good faerie, and the moon-loving supervillain Dr. Sloth have been locked away inside plot lines or trading cards but are now featured prominently on the front page. Other companies have tried to give them importance, there was a Neopets PlayStation 2 game in 2005, but none of them have really stuck around outside of cameos for events and holidays. One of Law’s goals is to make fans as excited for the other residents of Neopia as they are about their own virtual pets.
So now’s the best time to save your pets that have been starving since the Obama administration. “I would encourage any former Neopet players to come back to say hi to your pets,” Law said. “They’re probably still around.”