Virtual Pets

We’ve all heard of  Tamagotchi ,  Furby or Pokemon. Today there are two online companies competing for a space as large, if not more valuable than that of Facebook.

Both are aimed at 6-12 year olds, they have both an online and an offline presence. It’s a US mega brand called Disney versus a serial UK entrepreneur who also co-founded online retailer firebox.

The two are growing at a phenomenal rate. Facebook currently has 900+ million users and has taken 8 years to reach. Between them they have an audience of 220 million. One of which has doubled its audience in a year.

The networks are Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin. Club Penguin has been around a few years longer and is now owned by Disney. Moshi Monsters jumped from 30 million to 65 million users last year alone.

Mind Candy – Moshi Monsters

Michael Acton Smith who had previously co-founded a popular online retail site called Firebox, didn’t have the smoothest of entries into the competitive children’s entertainment industry. In 2005, Mind Candy first launched an online scavenger hunt game called Perplex City. But despite early acclaim, the game had a meager 50,000 paying users after two years, and Mind Candy burned through $9 million of the $10 million Smith had raised in startup funds.

On the brink of going out of business, Smith used the $1 million he had left and the lessons he’d learned from the failure of Perplex City to create Moshi Monsters.

For those who don’t know, Moshi Monsters is a world of virtual creatures called Moshlings. Users start by adopting one and then exploring the Moshi world. Ohh La Lane, Sludge Street, the Moshi theme park are a few of the areas which Monsters can visit to interact, complete challenges and puzzles etc.

Membership starts at £4.95 per month, rising to £30 per year. Smith expects almost 50 percent of Moshi’s revenue to come via other sources.

Moshi Monsters is very much a Brand, Smith refers to many other children’s media companies such as Disney and states how they all start with a film or a program and then expand. He say’s in today’s world this experience of media needs to be more interactive. Moshi World is the start of Micheal Acton Smith’s Brand. Other Moshi products include magazines, books, trading cards, teddies, bean bags the list is growing rapidly.

When Moshi Monsters launched, sign-ups remained low and hardly anyone was playing it.

Still, the company created new characters, new features, new ways of communicating with other players and around 18 months later, in the summer of 2009, the company reached its tipping point, and Moshi Monsters exploded.

By February 2011, the site had amassed 35 million users worldwide. That number jumped to 50 million users last June and today stands around 65 million.

With about 100 employees and a product line that now includes Moshi-branded toys, a magazine and Moshi TV, Mind Candy is aiming for monster growth. Last year, the company says it generated more than $100 million in gross sales on all Moshi Monsters-related products. It was also valued last year at £150 million.
Michael Acton Smith has been called a lot of things and from what I have read a lot of people speak very highly of him. One comparison is that of Walt Disney which leads me to the other large virtual world known as Disney’s Club Penguin.

Disney – Club Penguin

Prior to starting work on Club Penguin, Lance Priebe had been developing Flash web-based games in his spare time. As part of Rocketsnail Games, Priebe released Experimental Penguins in 2000, which featured gameplay similar to that which was incorporated into Club Penguin. Although Experimental Penguins went offline in 2001, it was used as the inspiration for Penguin Chat, which was released shortly after Experimental Penguin’s removal. When Priebe, Merrifield and Krysko decided to go ahead with Club Penguin in 2003, they had Penguin Chat on which to base part of the design process. After two years of testing and development, the first version of Club Penguin went live on October 24, 2005.

Club Penguin started with 15,000 users, and by March that number had reached 1.4 million—a figure which almost doubled by September, when it hit 2.6 million. By the time Club Penguin was two years old, it had reached 3.9 million users. At the point when they were purchased by Disney, Club Penguin had 12 million accounts, of which 700,000 were paid subscribers, and were generating $40 million in annual revenue.

In August 2007 they agreed to sell the company (both Club Penguin and the parent company) for the sum of $350.93 million. In addition, the owners were promised bonuses of up to $350 million if they were able to meet growth targets by 2009.

On February 10, 2009, Club Penguin released French and Portuguese versions of the game. On June 26, 2009 a Spanish version, for Latin America and Spain, was launched.

In late 2010, Club Penguin was about to release a Chinese version, but many people outside of China were playing the test version, so that they took it down. As of November 1, 2011, Disney had launched a German version of the game. Within the first day over 10,000 German players had signed up

Club Penguin makes most of its money off subscription plans which range from $7.95 for one month to $59.95 for a year (about $5 a month). There is also a ton of real-world merchandise that, when bought, can be scanned into the site thanks to unlock codes on every product.

The site actually helps kids improve their typing, reading and writing since so much of the site is understood through language. Auto-complete and predictive sentences help kids put together simple phrases and even learn new languages. Club Penguin is available in five languages (English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese) even though about 40% of the users come from the U.S.

All of the in-game signs, instructions and even predictive dialogue can be translated to any of those five languages. Some parents have allowed their kids to play for 30 minutes, for example, if they play for 20 minutes in a different language. It also means that kids from different countries can speak to each other in their own language. The site also has other parental features like a “timer” which automatically limits how long a child can stay logged in.

The site also promotes other lessons in responsibility, like how to take care of pets or keep a job. Players can adopt “Puffles” as companion pets, for example. These pets need to be fed and taken care of otherwise they run away. More than 25 million Puffles were “adopted” this year alone.

Club Penguin has all the trappings of a successful Disney franchise — charming characters, vaguely educational undertones and a strong emphasis on merchandise. The site, more than its language lessons and games, is teaching kids how to navigate social networks in a safe way.


Both concepts are defiantly worth watching, Club penguin seems to be winning the race, however Moshi Monsters seems to be doing it better and faster than this rivals.

The Moshi world seems to me more intriguing than the Penguins across the pond, the merchandise is more worldwide, as said earlier 40% of Club Penguins audience is from the USA. Looking at it as I was that age, the idea of cuddly monsters seems to be more appealing to me.  I grew up during the Pokemon craze, the idea of multi colored penguins doesn’t quite spark my imagination as much as the weird and wonderful creatures of the Moshi world. I do however like the idea your character in Club Penguin can adopt a pet in a similar way I used to own a Tamagotchi.

Disney is a huge Brand driving this network forward, however the smaller things Mind Candy are doing better. Disney forgot to re-register the sites domain name in 2009 and there was a huge problem for members and the site lost 7% of its daily users.

I early prediction is that Moshi Monsters is the Facebook of this online space and Club Penguin is more Bebo in comparison. I will be watching the two over the next few years to see which one prevails.


  1. [...] will come out the woodwork over the next year. Social Media among 8-13 year olds exists in Disney’s Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters.  But is 4-9 really a good target range [...]

  2. [...] wrote an article on Virtual pets about two months ago. A comparison of Disney’s Club Penguin and Moshi [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 44 other followers