Tag Archives: WebKinz

The Search for the Summer Game

My daughter came to me last week and declared that she was bored with World of Warcraft.

This is not an unusual thing.

She is, after all, 13 years old.  Being bored with things is pretty much part of the job description, coming on the list right after being embarrassed by your parents.

An making sweeping declarations about Azeroth being boring are not new.  That comes up from time to time and she finds something else to do with her allotted computer time for a while before heading back to the game.

This time though… this time it was a bit different.  After the usual declarations, she started asking about what other games there are out there.  And she even asked me to turn off her account so we wouldn’t be wasting money paying for something she wasn’t using.

Shit just got serious!

So we talked a little bit about what else was out there… something complicated by the fact that her computer is an iMac.  She has the biggest, best looking screen in the house, but Mac OS doesn’t get anywhere as many games as Windows.

We talked a bit about that, then she went off to go revisit WebKinz, the first online game she ever tried, way back in 2007.  It seems that she gets video game nostalgia too, just like me.  I used to be pretty firmly on the “nurture” side of the whole “nurture vs. nature” thing, and then I became a parent and decided that nature is not to be dismissed lightly.  I’m not saying that The Bad Seed should be classified as a documentary, I just mean that I see my daughter exhibiting the same behaviors as I did as a child at times, but it wasn’t like she was around to pick those behaviors up directly.

Anyway, she went off to WebKinz, got her old account restored (which took a few days) then began complaining about how things had changed.  Again, just like pop.  You need a Deluxe Membership to do a lot of things, while the whole physical pet aspect… it is still there I guess, but it seems to be de-emphasized compared to the new cash shop.  I didn’t check if they had added lock boxes, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Meanwhile, this got me to reflect on my own feelings about World of Warcraft at the moment.

I have been in something of a holding pattern.  I haven’t made instance groups nights for a while now, letting down the team.  I log into the game daily, but I generally just do some garrison tasks and a couple of daily pet battles before I log off again.

Vikund in his garrison

Vikund in his garrison

I have an alt sitting at close to level 92, largely due to pet battles, that I haven’t bothered to bring to Draenor yet, in part because the thought of yet another garrison to tend does not excite me in the least.

So I just tend my garrisons, increase my wealth… I could go buy that Grand Expedition Yak now if I so desired… and not much else.  I haven’t even rushed into Darkmoon Faire this month, and I am usually pretty religions on that every month. Though, on reflection, I mostly did that to collect heirlooms, and you can simply buy those with gold now.  So aside from the pets and mounts… and I have all of those already… and the minimal trade skill boosts, there suddenly isn’t as much to Darkmoon Faire for me as there once was.

So it might be time for a break from WoW for both of us.  We have been back and subscribed and playing WoW for nearly two years straight at this point.  A vacation from Azeroth might be in order.

But where to go?

Yes, things are happening in EVE Online, Fozzie Sov is coming.  But for me EVE is always the game I play along with some other game.  It cannot be relied upon to provide fun and engagement on demand.

In the past, summer destinations have included Lord of the Rings Online and EverQuest II.  There is certainly a lot more of Middle-earth to see on the far side of Moria, or I could continue my climb to somewhere closer to the level cap in post-cataclysm Norrath.

There is also the current progression server thing going on with EverQuest, though I am falling behind on that one, lacking a regular group… or much free time.  And unless Daybreak continues to publicize it the low level areas will dry up soon.

Then there are other MMORPGs I own or which are free… or free-ish.  I’ve been into Guild Wars 2 in the past and took a run a Star Wars: The Old Republic for a bit.  Along with those there is World of Tanks, War Thunder, and World of Warships, all of which I recently installed, though those tend to be short play session titles for me.  I could also add in some MMO-ish games to the list of possibilities, like Diablo III or Elite: Dangerous.

Then there is my Steam library.  Steam Left indicates that I have some play time left in that.

74 days would get me through the summer...

74 days would get me through this summer… and the next

And that number seems unlikely to get smaller given that the annual Steam Summer Sale commences tomorrow.  I know that something will be too cheap to resist… I have more than a couple games that were $3.74… adding on at least a few more hours.

So there I sit, needing a break from WoW but not sure where to head, and my daughter as well.  If I play with her, that complicates things due to the whole Mac OS limitation, though I might not need to account for her as she seems to have piled up some summer reading and has been more focused on art than video games on her computer of late.

The Convergence of WoW and WebKinz

I’ve mentioned WebKinz before.

It has been a couple of years, but it still gets some attention at our house.  In fact my daughter HAD to have a new WebKinz plush toy for Christmas this past year.

She had to have it because that is the basis of the traditional WebKinz subscription plan.  When you buy a WebKinz toy, you get a year-long subscription to their online world.  In that world, you take a virtual representation of your real life plush pal and build them a home, furnish it, and play games alone or with other people.

So it wasn’t a stretch to make a connection with WebKinz when Bilzzard announced that they would be selling plush toys that would get you an in-game pet as well.


Tangible toy with a virtual world representation:  My daughter expressed a desire right away for the plush gryphon hatchling.

The funny thing is that WebKinz is moving a bit towards WoW’s business model with Deluxe memberships.


Deluxe memberships are below the monthly Club Penguin ($6) or Toontown Online ($10) price range, running about $5 a month if purchased in the smallest increment.  That said, WebKinz is also much less of a virtual world than either of the two competitors I mentioned. (And we’ve had all three running at our house at various times.)

The one really nice thing that WebKinz has in their subscription plan matrix is a family membership.  Only available as an annual subscription, it gives you up to five accounts.  I wish Blizzard would look into some sort of family package.

And while I’m on the topic of mixing up real and virtual versions of in-game items, I thought I would mention that Figure Prints has announced the third in their series of in-game companion pet models.

Companion Pets - Series 3

Having posted about the first and second installments in the series, I would have to say that this is perhaps the best set so far, though I’m still not laying down any cash for them.  But if you have to have them, they are only available through March 31st.

People who are not fans of the cash shop trend we’re seeing in subscription MMOs will probably enjoy the irony of the Pandaren Monk pet being part of this series.  You have to buy that pet from the Blizzard Store, and then you can turn around and buy it again from Figure Prints.

Webkinz Holiday Slam!

As I wrote in a past post, Webkinz is the somewhat secret “Mommy MMO” that has come to our house.

To the list of mothers I know that play Webkinz to earn cash for their kids I can safely add my own sister, as my niece has nearly 20K KinzCash in her account, and I am sure she did not earn that on her own.

Ganz, of course, had a problem though. Once you buy your Webkinz plush animal, they have to figure out a way to get more money out of you.

They tried ads for a short time, but were inundated by complaints.

So this holiday season they pushed a variety of addons for the game, including something akin to a collectible card game, jewelry and charms, and a range of new plush Webkinz and Lil’kinz animals.

Their strategy seems to have worked beyond their plan.

My own daughter received a total of SIX Webkinz and Lil’kinz animals (a bunny, two poodles (one white, one pink), a seal, a unicorn, and a panda) and some Webkinz charms which your pet can wear both in real life and in game.

All of these items need to be activated through codes that come in the packaging, which, I suppose, is where the problems began.

On Christmas Day, the Ganz site started coming apart with traffic.

We were able to log on once in a while, but were unable to go to the rooms on our account or access the “adoption” page where you use the activation codes to make new items appear in game.

Instead we were greeted with the now all-too-familiar “Please wait…” message.

But at least we were able to get on Christmas Day. Since then the load on the system has become worse and we have been unable to logon at all.

Today Ganz finally turned off all logons while they worked on their site. The site now reports:

Webkinz World is currently down due to technical difficulties. Your furry friends at Webkinz are working around the clock to bring the site back up as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

They have also stopped answering the phones for support and now a message directs callers to please email the company with any issue at support@webkinz.com.

So if you got a new Webkinz (or six) in your home this holiday season, it will likely be some time before you can see them in game… or get in the game at all. There is currently no ETA for the return of Webkinz World.

The Mommy MMO

A few weeks back, when our daughter started kindergarten, my wife made her a Zuckertute, the traditional German gift for the first day of school.  In addition to the usual candy and such, there was something in it for which my daughter had been asking:  A Webkinz.

webkinz.png

A Dalmatian Webkinz, to be specific.

Webkinz (one of those words that is both singular and plural I think, like sheep, fish, and email) are stuffed animals that come with a code that you can enter into the Webkinz web site that enables you to have an online version of it.

You not only get an online version of your pet, you also get a little one room house for it as well as some KinzCash, the in-game currency.

With the KinzCash you can buy furnishings for your house, clothes, toys, and food for your pet, and expansions to your living space.  Here is my daughter’s pet in one of her rooms and in an uncharacterist state of undress.  She had just sold a bunch of clothes to buy a game room.

wkdalm.png

My daughter wanted a Webkinz because some of her friends have them as well as a good chunk of her cousins.  So on returning home from her first day of school, she got one of her very own.

Things began to crop up a bit in the Webkinz plan from the very start.  It was hoped that her computer, a 700MHz indigo G3 iMac, would be able access the Webkinz site, but it actually comes up short on system requirements.  So that will have to wait until I finally get a new iMac for her. (I am waiting for Leopard to ship.)

Instead my daughter has to play on my wife’s computer, which did not exactly thrill her, but which was at least a workable solution.  Then we found that we had to be there to read things on screen for her, though that passed fairly quickly as my daughter picks up patterns very quickly and is now picking up words at an increasing rate as well.

We entered the code from her Webkinz (good for one year of play), went through the “adoption,” and then off our daughter went into the world of Webkinz. 

And a world it is.  I used “MMO” in the title of this post, so I am going to have to justify it.

The online part is there. It is all done through a web interface.

The multi-player part is there.  You can interact with other players, though in a very controlled fashion, in common areas.  You can play games with people, chat, and invite them over to see your house.

As for massive.. well… they say they have over 1 million registered users… even if they all only paid the $12.99 for a single Webkinz makes it a reasonable revenue proposition.  And since they have sold over 2 million Webkinz, they seem to be doing well enough to make the “massive” claim.

And the “Mommy” part in the title… I’ll get to that in a bit.  First we have to see what our daughter did immediately in game.

She spent all her KinzCash.  She bought an add-on room, some clothes, a bed, and some food.  She was broke in under an hour.

But have no fear.  You can make more KinzCash in game.  You do so by playing games or doing jobs, which are also games.

The single player games are mostly in the simple, addictive arcade type that make up much of the segment known as the casual gaming, while the multi-player games (which you can also play individually) are versions of classic games like checkers, battleship, and connect four.  Here is my daughter’s pet, in her more usual state of dress, in one of the game rooms.  The tables and such are stations where you can play against other players, or against the computer.

wkgameroom.png

She was able,by herself or with a little help from me, to play some of the games and earn some more KinzCash so she could continue on her wee consumerism.  There are also a few games you can play once per day where you spin a wheel or other simple activity and get a reward, often KinzCash, without any skill being required.

We play Webkinz together some of the time, but our daughter seemed quite capable of playing it without our help in pretty short order.  She is fond of a fashion game where you choose outfits from a selection of clothes and let a panel of NPC judges score you, allowing you to win KinzCash.

KinzCash collected for our daughter, but it collected slowly… or at least too slowly for a five year old.  So she made the move I suspected she would.  She asked my wife if she would earn KinzCash by playing games while she was in school.  My wife declined.  She enjoys a game of solitaire on her computer now and again, but she isn’t the computer game type.

I was to learn, however, that mothers playing Webkinz to earn KinzCash for their kids was fairly common in my wife’s social circle..  She mentioned this right away, and a couple of weeks later at a housewarming party I got to meet one of those moms.

I brought up the topic of Webkinz with the mother in question and told her that I had played some Cash Cow 2 while on a conference call to earn a bit of KinzCash for our daughter.  Pictured below, it is a simple game where you try to click on groups of two or more “bottle caps” (it is a milk bottle vending machine) of the same color to remove them and earn points.  Scoring goes up somewhat geometrically the more caps you get in a group, so you want to avoid clicking on pairs if you see a way to tyu

cashcow2.png 

A simple enough game, and very much like one I used to play on the Mac about 15 years back.

She gave me a very small sigh and said it was common for new players to enjoy Cash Cow for a while before they moved on to other games.  

And she said it in  just the right tone of voice to make it clear that I was a noob.  A noob!

I said that if they only had solitaire in WebKinz, my wife would probably the maternal KinzCash farming club.  She told me that they used to have solitaire WebKinz, but that it was bugged.  It used to give out a lot more KinzCash than it was supposed to.  She used to play it all the time.  It is the reason why her daughter has a fully furnished 10 room house.

Exploits! Cash farming! Elite status symbols! Noobs!

This woman did not know it, but she was speaking a language I knew well.  The language of online gaming.  All that was missing was some mention of griefing… but you cannot have that in a kids game… can you?  No, I think not.

The terminology she used was different, but the meanings were universal and crystal clear.

All in a web browser and enabled by a plush toy available at your local Hallmark store!

The kids do not seem to see it quite through the same lens, at least not the kindergarten crowd I’ve spoken with.     

But the mothers.  Watch out.  There is an untapped MMO market.  Will Webkinz lead to some WoW-like destination?