Neopets is 20 years old this year. The online world of adorable creatures for you to take care of and decorate is almost legal enough to drink. If all of that doesn't get you, take a moment to remember all the Neopets you've abandoned.
It's a conversation that comes up more than once with Stephanie Lord, Neopets brand manager, at the 20th anniversary party at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. In addition to maintaining Neopets' brand imagery and content, she's also a passionate carer for all the world's abandoned JubJubs, Ixis, Aishas, and Blumaroos, the digitized animals that live in the game.
"We play with them all and feed them all and take care of them, don't worry," she assured SYFY WIRE at the anniversary party. While many may simply remember Neopets fondly or even experience a nostalgia bomb upon hearing the name, the site and its cartoon inhabitants are still very much so alive, with a vibrant and dedicated community still existing to this day.
That community was well on display at SDCC, during which Neopets threw a haunted carnival-inspired event — 21-and-up only.
"What really makes the site what it is is the community," Lord explains. "The feelings you get from playing it and being with your Neopets." And it's something that has evolved over the years. As the audience and userbase has aged up, so has the game; the admin team even has a direct line of communication with its users to determine how Neopets should grow.
"We try to be very open with our users; we understand that they're older now," she says. "We try and get their advice, say, 'This is what we're thinking, what do you want to see and do?'"
By using that feedback, the site as a whole has been able to not only stay afloat but flourish. And it's only going to get bigger from here.
Though now in a very closed BETA, a mobile version of the Neopets site is coming soon, once it goes through more testing. It'll essentially be a version of the site that can be played on your phone, with the same interface, ability to customize your Neopets, play games, and explore Neopia. There will be some new, exclusive mobile games, as well as revamps of older games to make them more mobile-friendly. An app, Lord says, is in the plans, but the first step is making sure the mobile Neopets is the best it can be. And with the mobile version, the Neopets team will be able to reach out to younger people and continue to build up the user base.
"We have some really exciting plans and different types of opportunities to bring Neopets to a new generation," Lord explains. "We're looking to target a little bit younger again, reach out to kids and bring it back on to a full-family affair." Many parents do play Neopets with their children, Lord says, and she's hoping they'll be able to tap into that and make the whole experience as family-friendly as possible. "Maybe next year won't be a 21 and over party," she says, laughing.
The event itself, a haunted carnival affair, featured games to win tickets and Neopets fans galore. Trying your hand at these games promised prizes at the end of the night … that is, if you were lucky enough to win. Held in partnership with TNT, the SDCC party sold out almost immediately. There's little doubt in this reporter's mind that Neopets will be around for its 50th anniversary.
In addition to the carnival games, there were demos for the 3D Neopets game, as well as the mobile BETA version, giving attendees a sneak preview of what is next in the Neopian universe. Cosplay was also on display, going to show that these fans still have a deep love for their pets and this online world. As well as themed cocktails (because, again, 21 and up only).
If you were to go to neopets.com right now, chances are you'd recognize it. The core is more or less the same as it has always been. The Soup Kitchen faerie is still there, waiting to feed your pets, and you can still buy accessories, still travel to the Haunted Woods and the Lost Desert, and trade and sell with other users. The most popular Neopets are still the ones they've always been: Koogra, Shoryu, and Kacheek, and the baby paintbrush is still ever so coveted.
"We've tried to stick to its roots," Lord says. "When you're in Neopets, we want you to be able to feel that you're still in Neopets, no matter the product. We don't want it to feel foreign."
So go on. Log in, feed your Neopet, and tell it you're sorry.