Now my 8-year-old daughter has fallen into the same trap as her older brother who’s addicted to World of Warcraft. She’s hooked on Club Penguin – admittedly, just about the cutest world of animated penguins and casual games I’ve ever run across (and certainly which has ever come out of Kelowna, British Columbia, a small town four hours drive north of Vancouver).
It was recently written up in the Wall Street Journal:
Launched in October 2005, but really marketed since March 2006, Club Penguin is now up to several million unique visitors. Registration is free and requires a parent’s e-mail address. Games are free and you rack up points for playing. You design your own penguin and igloo. You can get a pet Puffle and spend points buying it food. I have checked out their Internet safety information and am reasonably confident it’s fine for young kids.
Here’s the business model: Revenue does not come from advertising. How much discretionary income does an 8-year-old have? Just loads of influence.
Rather, a paid subscription on a parent’s credit card is $6 monthly or $58 for a one-year commitment. This is about half my daughter’s allowance, which she’ll have to fork over to me, and will at least cut into her candy buying.
When I was 8, I had no concept of buying services, let alone the means. I barely understood Monopoly, and that money was fake. If I had a subscription to anything, it was Popular Science or Weekly Reader. This young generation is learning how to create an online identity, interact with others they cannot meet, budget their resources (real or virtual), and create their own entertainment.
And judging by the number of off-line phone calls my daughter makes to coordinate meeting her real friends in her virtual world, she’s also saving gasoline and my time driving her to playdates! (okay, that’s just a rationalization…)