The following is a post I’m reblogging from Chillin43, with permission. Just like V0rtex, he too has some concerns about Club Penguin, although different and not about the game’s features itself – it’s about Disney and how they operate. You can visit Chillin43’s Club Penguin Thoughts blog by clicking here. One thing I want to point out that Chillin does not mention in his post is that Disney is airing the Wish You a Merry Walrus special on Disney Channel, so that’s good. Thanks again to Chillin for letting me repost his writing!
Does Disney actually care about Club Penguin? And, how popular is Club Penguin really?
Unlike many, I have never really thought that Disney ruined Club Penguin. Putting aside takeovers, Disney hasn’t really messed with Club Penguin’s grand vision but merely gives them the funds to do what they want. I think, had Disney not scooped up CP in 2007, the site would either A) no longer exist, B) be doing the exact same thing, minus some merchandise, videos, and more complicated features, or C) have been purchased by another company, who may have really messed with CP system. But this blog post isn’t really about the merits of Disney’s ownership; it’s about Disney’s opinion of Club Penguin.
Back in 2008, just a year into the Disney ownership, things seemed to be looking up. We began seeing more complicated games like Card-Jitsu! We got quite a bit of merchandise nationwide, with Club Penguin partnering with one of the biggest toy makers and some of the biggest retailers in the United States! Toys R Us devoted whole sections and displays to CP merchandise! Disney rented Times Square in New York City for a whole day to throw a party and promote their site! Actual video games started rolling out! The rise of Club Penguin had only just begun.
And, then, rather quietly, it just sort of….died.
After that initial October 24, 2008 toy launch and party, things slowly went downhill. Very slowly.
Products obviously sold; I often found Club Penguin sections would go from full stock to highly depleted in days and I recall some products were highly sought after and hard to find. However, with the second wave in early 2009, the board games, playsets, and shirts were noticeably fazed out. Wave three came later that year, and consisted mostly of trading cards, plushes, and figurines. That continued for several more waves, with a few odds and ends thrown in (like painted figures).
But as the waves went on, the selection of products – and stores with inventory – shrunk.
Toys R Us took down their entry way Club Penguin stands, took away the product’s cushy, promotional end caps, and literally dumped the products into the middle of the toddler aisle. And then, they just stopped placing orders.
Target – the second largest retailer in the United States – briefly gave Club Penguin a shot in late 2009. For a time, they placed Club Penguin products neatly and orderly by the Marvel, Transformers, and Star Wars toys. But, by mid-2010, Target, too, quit ordering the products and delegated the remnants of the original orders to the middle of the pink aisle, between Twilight collectibles and Cinderella dolls. Herbert’s look of annoyance as he laid on top of the rummaged through final box of Club Penguin products mirrored my own frustration.
By mid-2010, the mix and match figurines – a personal favorite of mine – were discontinued and books were all but done, found only by chance in a Barnes and Noble. Coming off of great sales from the original Nintendo DS game, Club Penguin released a sequel DS game and a Wii party game which appeared to sell pretty well, but marked the end of Club Penguin’s spinoff video game days. The start of 2011 marked the end of penguin and puffle plushes and by the end of that year, trading cards – which appeared to be one of the most demanded pieces of merchandise – disappeared from stores all together.
The final blow came when the Disney Store removed their remaining Club Penguin products from their online and real world stores in 2012. CP’s own flesh and blood, shall we say, had turned their back on the products.
In loving memory of Club Penguin merchandise
And here we are, about to enter 2015. 2012 and 2013 saw no new Club Penguin products, though 2014 did see that specialty online store with outrageous prices coming to the light. Up until 2013, I’d find a Club Penguin trading card tin here and there. Up until a few months ago, I’d find a trading card pack, ripped from its cardboard packaging, swimming with other forgotten card collections in the 99 cent value box in Target and Toys R Us. However, now, Club Penguin is merely but a ghost. Walt Disney World and Disneyland CP pins are still available for sale at the parks, though its not clear if the second wave of them is still made. Membership cards continue to have a pretty large distribution, and occasionally have banners, sales, or bonus items to boast. Those three video games are hidden in the bin of $15 value games. That’s it.
Of course, this article is written from strictly a United States perspective. The Club Penguin Magazine continues to be published in various countries and languages, though apparently it has fallen victim to lower quality paper and repeat items in recent months. And, according to Saraapril, business is booming in Portguese countries where many items – including party hats, napkins, and plates – are still being produced and sold. Australia has a zoo that has teamed up with Club Penguin for a second time in 2014 after a successful promotion in 2011. Said zoo sells CP products in its gift shop, gives away free CP toys through contests, and has themed some of its areas around the site. However, I think it’s fair to say that Club Penguin merchandise has seen better days everywhere.
That zoo does bring me to my next point, though: the general exposure and popularity of Club Penguin. While the toys were obviously bought by a fair amount of people back in 2008 and 2009, even then kids didn’t talk about Club Penguin at school very much and public awareness of the site was pretty low. ABC’s Good Morning America mentioned Club Penguin once or twice within a six year period, but, beyond that, you never see a sitcom making a joke about the site or any other show referencing it. Club Penguin is no pop culture fixture; it’s a niche product with devoted fans and former players who recall it fondly. Within the last two years, Club Penguin has started advertising a lot more on a handful of networks for kids and Game On segments have been produced far more frequently about the site. However, overall exposure remains low.
This really brings me to my big point: to me, Club Penguin has always seemed like the forgotten middle child of the Disney family. Club Penguin doesn’t boast billion dollar profits like Marvel and Pixar, but it doesn’t get killed off like Pixie Hallow due to low usage. Its products never got a huge push, but they sold enough to survive for a few waves. Disney doesn’t try to aggressively advertise the site, but they do promote it with takeovers and small ad campaigns. You’ll never see Disney CEO Bob Iger ever breathe a word about Club Penguin, yet Disney continues to pump some money into the site. It is as though Disney makes enough money from Club Penguin for it to proceed, but it doesn’t really care about expanding it. We know that subscriptions to Club Penguin have stopped growing in recent years and that Club Penguin failed to reach a financial goal that Disney set for it when it was purchased in 2007. However, the site keeps chugging along as Disney just moves on past it towards their pool full of billions of one dollar bills funded by Frozen.
Club Penguin makes pocket change compared to big Disney franchises, yet Disney allows it to charge on. Disney doesn’t care that much about expanding the small awareness of the site, but yet they do try to promote it and allow it to use its treasured characters to attract new customers. What does this tell you? Disney cares, but not that much. And I have a problem with that.
Club Penguin has such great potential – whether it be in stories, apps, or another format. But Disney gives Club Penguin so little money that none of that can happen and what we’re left with is five minutes of new content each week.
Club Penguin will never be the gigantic empire I imagined when I was young due to strange management from Disney. The small revenue Club Penguin provides is enough to survive, but when will Disney decide that that’s not enough?