Club Penguin, the Disney -owned social network for kids, announced this morning it’s shutting down. In its place, the company will launch a new product for mobile, Club Penguin Island, which has been in development over the past several years. Club Penguin Island will launch in March, while the Club Penguin game on the desktop and mobile devices will shut down on March 29, 2017.
The closure is a bittersweet milestone for a certain generation – those who grew up with computers and the internet, and learned to socialize online through Club Penguin’s virtual world.
Started in 2005, the site featured avatars of animated penguins (hence the name), that lived in its online world. Users could play games, chat, and build their home with virtual accessories. The company sold to Disney in 2007, in a deal that then valued the business at $700 million. At the time, it had over 12 million users. By 2013, that number had grown to 200 million, though there’s some indication that visitors have been on the decline.
According to one traffic measurement source, SimilarWeb, the site saw 5.6 million visitors as of December, 2016 – and that figure was down from 7.4 million in July, 2016. The U.S., however, was still the primarily source of that traffic, driving over a quarter of the total visits to the site.
Meanwhile, on mobile, the iOS app had dropped to #595 in the Games category, and had consistently been ranked in the 400’s or 500’s, with an occasional bounce into the 300’s, over the past couple of years, as well.
The problem for Club Penguin, which was aimed at younger children and tweens primarily, is that there are now so many apps vying for kids’ attention. Even if they’re not lying about their age in order to join sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, there are other places for kids to engage online, including YouTube, Nickelodeon’s properties, PBS Kids, and elsewhere. Plus, there are app stores filled with games to divert kids’ attention.
The new site, Club Penguin Island, will look to recapture kids’ interest, with a modern-day take on the original virtual world, but one’s that focused on mobile. Though related, Club Penguin Island is its own, standalone app – players can’t bring items or coins from the old site to the new one. Their Club Penguin membership will also not transfer over to the new property.
Club Penguin was a significant online property, which led to the development of fan sites, wikis, and other online communities for its players over the years. However, it was more recently in the news for being home to an online anti-Trump protest from elementary schoolers – a notable reminder that today’s political upheaval is being felt even by the youngest in the U.S.
Club Penguin Island is currently offering pre-registration, so kids can reserve their new penguin’s name in advance of its March release.