Club Penguin is Dead – A Case Study

Remember when Toontown and Pirates of the Carribean Online were closed (2013) in order for Disney to focus on Club Penguin (which they bought in 2007)? Well, now Disney is moving CP on mobile – and closing the original game down. October 24, 2005 – March 29, 2017. 11 years of joy, that will end all of a sudden. But how did such a nice children’s game have such an ugly downfall? There are quite a few reasons.


NOTE: I know some of you might not be interested in this article, so I will have other posts today to make up for it in case you’re getting annoyed. Sorry.

I’ll point out some causes of the decline that I can think about on the spot:

Membership being necessary to enjoy the game at the fullest extent. Before Disney bought Club Penguin, it was possible to get all sorts of free items at parties, and most importantly, crucial clothing pieces like t-shirts (the last I know about was given away just before I joined, in summer 2008) which made your penguin look dressed (not just bare-skinned with a hat). The ratio of paid/free features started favoring paying more and more. The monthly membership fee, instead of being just an option, became necessary to enjoy the game. In the silver age that you can see in the picture below (2010-2012), at the various parties hosted by CP in the weekends, there were already rooms where you could not enter as a non-member, which is really sad. It got even worse later on.

Unwanted changes bought to the game. The well-designed initial map was modified after the Golden Age of CP, for example some iconic buildings (like the Stage) were replaced by others and so on. This, in return, made the game unrecognizable for older players. Unwanted new features (like stamps, at first) burdened the previously simple game that could be improved by simply catering to the community’s wishes more (like tipping the Iceberg when it was actually a legend, not postponing it to this year). This game used to be so good, that it generated various clones (Webosaurs and Pandanda were popular CP-like games I tried before I quit it in 2010).

Disney getting more and more involved with Club Penguin’s development. In 2012, Disney-themed parties (Takeovers) made their entry. Some were good, like the Star Wars one, but most were unwanted (like the Frozen, Zootopia parties for example). Also, parties promoting mobile apps – like SoundStudio – which noone wanted. The parties basically became ugly means of advertising non-CP related stuff.

Less interest from the ever-changing playerbase & devs leaving. If you check this graph, CP’s peak was in December 2010, and I’d say it was caused by inertia, because the game started showing signs of decline since January that year. A lot of the initial staff also left after 2010, with the original developer lead of the game, Billybob, leaving just before „The Downfall” period which was dominated by Disney ads. The recent popularity spike from 2017 was only caused by the news of the game shutting down. What could have caused this decline? I think it’s the in-your-face membership ads that drove me mad and made me quit the game too. As a reminder, in the year I quit it, I recall there were already news about many users leaving CP (in millions), more and more per month. I think it’s because those users wanted a better experience, without a need to pay money for it (which is a normal wish for a healthy community). Remember: most players didn’t have a membership yet enjoyed the game a lot back in the day.



Conclusion – Club Penguin declined because of money hunger (we can call it „pay to play”), the original dev team changing, and because of the implementation of a large number of unwanted features. This is a lesson for all of us, including the WoT developers, that such mistakes need to be avoided.

Other links I can recommend on the subject: