Talking Club Penguin, Disney, and 'Emergent Play'

Illustration for article titled Talking Club Penguin, Disney, and Emergent Play

I'm really fascinated by the success of MMOs aimed at kids — both in terms of their current (and potential) earning power, as well as the attachment people have to them. Club Penguin has been a massive success, and chatted with Lane Merrifield, one of the co-founders and current general manager, on Disney, the business model, MMOs for kids, and the birth of Club Penguin. Asked whether or not the success of CP was a surprise, Merrifield had this to say:

Absolutely, I'd be silly if I said I wasn't. We built this for our kids - I mean we built it scalable, and part of why we didn't have any VC money, no investors, was because we didn't build it as a business - we built it as a side project.

Lance, another of the partners - his oldest child and mine are about three months apart, and we were talking about how they were learning to use the mouse, starting to use the computer and the internet.

And it was that dialogue, and some technologies that Lance had been working on that really was the birth of Club Penguin. So a lot of this has come as a surprise.


I think there's a tendency to brush off these niche games since they're not 'serious' MMOs — even though they've done an incredible job of pulling in the subscribers with reasonably limited advertising and so on. Where will these types of games go from here — and their players? Club Penguin player today, WoW addict in a decade? I guess time will tell.

MMO Week: Club Penguin [ via PlayNoEvil]

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Made money is an understatement. Disney shelled out $700 million for CP. The game itself pulls in $65 million in revenue last year, at a ridiculous margin of 50%, netting $35 million profit. They have 12+ million subscribers, of which nearly a million are paying.