Is Poptropica becoming pay-to-play?

Hey Poptropicans, it’s Slanted Fish, and I’m here to talk about a question that’s been asked more and more lately: Is Poptropica becoming a pay-to-play game?

Now, Poptropica has always been a free game, and hopefully, it always will be. However, that line is becoming more blurred than it used to be, and that’s concerning.

Earlier this week, a big update was released on Poptropica Worlds, offering tons of cool new features, both expected and unexpected. We got costumes, house expansions, the Colorizer, and new furniture. There was just one major issue… most of it was for members only.

popworlds summer update 1

You might not have seen that coming from the Creators’ Blog’s breakdown of the news, which didn’t once reference membership. But let’s take a look at the facts:

  • 2 Color Changing Outfits: When you go to select the individual parts you want to buy, you’ll find that half of each outfit is for members only.
  • 8 Summer Outfits: Of these eight outfits, four of them (that’s half!) are for members only in their entirety, while the other four are completely available to all. You only find out that they’re members only when you click the costume to see the individual parts.
  • House Expansions: For members only. We did see this one coming from the descriptions for membership, though.
  • Colorizer: Those alluring “endless color options”? Members only. Non-members are stuck with a six-color palette for skin tones and another for hair.
  • Beach Decor: 19 new items, literally all of them for members only. Interestingly, the key and wallpapers are free for members, but the other items still cost coins.

Not since the Members Only Islands (which, by the way, has won “Worst Poptropica Update” in the Poppies community awards two times) has there been a massive update that’s been so… member-centric. And for many Poptropicans, that’s a huge turn-off.

Since the update, many have voiced out their criticisms, including LillySparkle$ on the Pop Blog, Purple Claw on Clawtropica, and those in the PHB comments. Some players have compared it to Club Penguin, which was notorious for a gameplay experience that amounted to waddling around and making new enemies if you weren’t a member.

The Poptropica Creators have responded on social media, but gave a more detailed reply about the situation on Purple Claw’s post:

pophq comment

It’s good to know the Creators are still taking our thoughts into account and re-assuring us that Poptropica will continue to be “a free game that can be enjoyed by all.” I definitely agree that the Poptropica Creators deserve to be compensated for their hard work, as do creators of all kinds who make quality, enjoyable content.

If you’re looking at Poptropica gameplay as being able to play islands, then Poptropica isn’t becoming pay-to-play. In fact, they’ve even gotten rid of having to wait through a members-only Early Access period for a new island on Worlds, which is a plus.

Why are we worried about membership then?

Remember, though, that the Poptropica experience is more than islands: it’s also customizing your character and your house. In that sense, the focus on membership that is so evident in this update, as well as other aspects of Pop Worlds, remains disconcerting for many Poptropicans – and for good reason.

A big reason is that, on Worlds, more of the experience has been put behind a paywall – compared to Poptropica Original, where many more aspects were accessible to all, including aspects that are now for members only on Worlds. This includes the endless Colorizer and certain costumes like the Dark Knight and Midnight Ninja, as PHB commenter GreedyShadow points out. Shouldn’t they be free on Worlds too?

Another concern is simply that it’s hard for some players to get memberships. Many Poptropica players are kids without money, who were attracted to Poptropica because it provided quality entertainment for free. Many parents may be reluctant to spend their money on a membership for their kids, and it can be hard to ascertain the value of, say, having an extra beach-themed room in your virtual house. Or as another commenter, Icy Cloud put it, “I don’t exactly want to use my money to buy pixels on a screen!”

PHB staffer and Poptropica member Silver Wolf has a different complaint: the allure for membership is worse than before, not better. “Despite paying for membership with real money, I still have to collect enough credits to buy all the items I want, rather than them being free as before. To me, it seems as if they’re just making it worse for everyone,” she says. Members do get a 20% discount, but perhaps that amount could increase.

So, what’s a Poptropica Creator to do for cash?

Honestly, it’s hard to say, especially without knowing the numbers of how much they’re getting and wanting. Given the market of kids, however, I’d advise against them putting all their proverbial eggs into one basket, that being the basket of membership. They’ve experimented with other things before, and they should continue to find ways to get financial support outside of paid subscriptions, which not all players are able to get.

They should keep doing creative ad partnerships with other companies wanting to advertise on Poptropica. Players have always enjoyed getting fun ad prizes and playing games in new buildings.

They should work on more awesome merch, from toys to books, particularly with a range of aesthetics beyond just childish: they can be cute like Disney Tsum Tsum toys or inspired by trending designs, like what you’d find in a Hot Topic store.

They could even open a Patreon or other funding page and offer exclusive perks – like specially-made costumes, house decor, or signed copies of the graphic novels. This gives those who are donating a more visible sense that they are contributing to the success of a game they love, while offering them good incentives that don’t interfere with everyone else’s game experience.

Now back to the players…

If you are a Poptropica player who loves the game and who has the means, please consider supporting the game! The Poptropica Creators do work hard to create a great and generally free product, but they still need money to keep things running.

If you can, support their work by buying the graphic novels or other Pop books, bringing home a new Pop toy, or even (gasp) getting a membership. You don’t even need a credit card anymore thanks to the apps – if you have credit from an iTunes or Play Store gift card, you can make an in-app purchase for membership. For a list of other Poptropica merch you can buy, take a look at our Merchandise guide.

Regardless of the existence of some paid content, however, Poptropica will remain free to play for all. Hopefully, the Creators will take this feedback and continue to consider the full gaming experience – not just with islands, but also with customization of house and character – in relation to non-members and the higher amount of free access we could enjoy on Poptropica Original. From the Creators’ comments, we can be assured that the game will continue to put out fun content for both free and paying players.

Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on the colorful new Worlds updates? What might convince you to get a membership, if possible – or what’s stopping you from getting one? What suggestions do you have for the Creators to make membership an attractive option that does not detract from the non-members’ experiences?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and the Creators may check them out and consider them for future updates!

Keep popping,

~slantedfish 🐠

Advertisements

41 thoughts on “Is Poptropica becoming pay-to-play?

  1. Purple Claw says:

    I strongly agree. The Poptropica Creators need to make membership itself more attractive, buy not making the whole game less attractive. Even though I’m not a paid player myself, I do buy merch and stuff to support the game and to be entertained. (Just like Icy Cloud said “I don’t exactly want to use my money to buy pixels on a screen!”)

    Although I understand that Poptropica is a business and it needs money to keep up, they shouldn’t make all these amazing updates members only. Especially the colorizer, which was free on the original Poptropica, and a useful but free way to change our skin color whenever we felt like it.

  2. sfuggireallavita says:

    Good points! Membership isn’t a bad thing but I think they (the creators) should use it delicately and not just rely on it for making the main load of money. They’ve gotta remember the one time they sold their merchandise and that was pretty popular, a lot of players old and new still have a dr hare toy or a figurine! (And seriously a dr hare would be awesome for myself but the only reason I don’t have one is fear of judgement due to being almost adult age range oops) Like this says kids are kids and parents may not be willing to pay for their child to have access to simple things like outfits and colourisers. Hopefully that makes sense…
    I haven’t yet voiced my opinion on this situation but I think this just ties up what we all want as players in Poptropica worlds so maybe I don’t need to provide my views on this. I’ll think about it however

    • Slanted Fish says:

      I agree! Plus, I think you should definitely go for a Dr. Hare plush. Some people have teddy bears and plushies from Disney or Pokemon, so why not Poptropica? If you need more convincing, it recently won “Best Poptropica Merch” in last month’s Poppies. (And here’s a pic of mine, if you’re interested.) 😉

      Also, more voices wouldn’t hurt to reinforce the consensus! I hope you’ll share your opinion if something’s on your mind. 🙂

  3. Trusty penguin says:

    It is becoming pay to play. I don’t have membership and it’s so annoying to have the best things members only. In original poptropica I didn’t get membership but now I’ll have to get one for worlds. Also maybe there could be a lifetime membership so you don’t have to renew it

    • Slanted Fish says:

      That seems to be where the game is headed: making it feel like you “have to” get membership to do anything enjoyable beyond the basics. This might sound like a great marketing strategy, but it largely devalues a huge portion of Poptropica’s base of free players. Considering that the Creators have said they “firmly believe” in the game being free, and its ability to keep membership from being overbearing on non-members in the past, I’d urge them not to go further down this route.

      Lifetime membership is an interesting idea, but we don’t know what membership will look like down the road. With Poptropica’s tenth birthday coming up, though, maybe they could put this out as a limited-time offer for the occasion.

      • Trusty penguin says:

        If that is where poptropica is heading, then there might be no point of membership. If everyone became a member because to much was members only, then there would only be people renewing there membership. What if you could use credits to get membership, or get membership by completing a certain amount of islands, that could increase the non member fan base, because people would play a lot of islands, trying to get membership

    • LizzyPop27 says:

      I agree wholeheartedly on making a lifetime membership (IF they absolutely have to have memberships be a thing, make it to where you only pay once). I think that things that were free in the original should stay free in Worlds (the colorizer and basically all of the islands) and that a membership would be more for things such as getting outfits for free and other customization features for free instead of for coins. Also making merch be at a discounted price (or something else discounted like that). Or make memberships disappear altogether and make donations be the main source of money. Giving incentives for donating more (such as you get a plushie for free if you donate at least $20 and have logged in a game play time of over 10 hours). Or you could get another small item of merch like a key chain or sticker or something like that if you tag Poptropica on social media and donate $5. The bottom line is that there are other options besides just being money hungry and taking away what was free in the original and making it cost in this one.

  4. Smart Flame says:

    I remember back in the day when I first joined poptropica as a wee little 5 year old in 2010, I was amazed I could play something without paying that was incredibly fun. I tried many other games (Including club penguin) but none were as good as Poptropica and that’s why I still play. I just hope that other younger audiences can find that same experience even if the membership continues like this. Although I wanted a membership in old Pop, in the new Pop i don’t know. In old pop if they introduced new features that non-members could use that was quality and they had many thing, but members still got bonuses and items that we didn’t, and I liked that, and it made me want a membership. But if you take away such a large chunk of something away from what all use to have (Such as costumes, minus items) it then becomes where every new thing could, non-members get a little bit, but members get all, and although they need to benefit their members, as they bring in money, some of the most loyal fans aren’t members because they might be younger audiences. One thing we have yet to see is if these features are only temporary as they game only came out in May, so as they unroll new features member bonuses are added to those and lessened to these features we have now. One thing is it is still important to support poptropica so I do like to buy the novels and merch.

  5. Over 9000 says:

    I agree with this even I as a non member have hated finding some islands members only. However there is another part of the picture , with the making and developing of Pop worlds creators might have spent a lot of money. But still for the younger players it will be depressing. I have played games like Club Penguin which was very heartbreaking as it was entirely pay to play. I hope our Pop doesn’t become entirely pay to play.

    • Slanted Fish says:

      That’s a good point – that the development of Worlds may have come at extra costs compared to previous years. However, in June 2016, which would’ve been mid-development of Worlds, I asked then-Creator Skinny Moon about Poptropica’s financial status, and she replied, “Poptropica is doing great!” So, I think they’re fine financially, but of course the money has to keep coming in.

  6. greedyshadow says:

    I agree, I really would argue about relating this to Club Penguin. I mean seriously, the best stuff I could get at any party (a couple months before it was shutdown) was a background and a PIN! (and we’re talking about a company that’s already rich)

  7. Spotted Dragon says:

    You bring up some amazing points. I completely agree with basically everything you said and I think that looking into other ways of earning money is a great idea. I would love more Poptropica merch!

  8. Yujo_Jacy_the_Jumpy_Coyote says:

    The colorizer is a feature that we took for granted in Original Poptropica only for it to be locked within a pay-to-use wall in Poptropica Worlds. At least the skin tones and hair color that I chose in Char Creation are available in the default set. Rest In Peace, skin tone customization. I hope they don’t do the same with mouth customization. Only time will tell what other previously free Pop feature will be a membership benefit in a Pop Worlds u_u . But hey, more entries for the “Worst Update” vote in the Poppies next year if that is still up to vote, right? ;P

  9. tallmeloniscool says:

    Fun Fact: Poptropica never had membership before! Poptropica in 2007 to 2009 there was no such thing as membership. Then Membership came in 2010 and some players were mad because of the best things about Poptropica is that it only made money through ads! But as if right now the membership is not really that bad.

    • Yujo_Jacy_the_Jumpy_Coyote says:

      As of right now membership is not really that bad, but there is still time for it to become really bad ^^’. If we are seeing the colorizer introduced as a membership feature this early on that isn’t a good sign for what the future will hold for Poptropican customization and the game in general. Not to mention the majority of this update consisting of only membership features – if they dish out more updates like this consistently it’ll be a matter of time before nonmembers take every update with a grain of salt, not expecting to be able to access much of what’s new. Also, stating that Poptropica never had membership before without the inclusion of ‘before 2009’ makes that fun fact a fun distortion of a fact since excluding that bit makes it a lie lol. But if we think about it this way, Poptropica was given membership 2 years after it became a thing, while membership was already a thing the moment Poptropica Worlds was released – interpret that how you will.

      • Yujo_Jacy_the_Jumpy_Coyote says:

        I made a minor mistake with the year bit – should have said ‘before 2010’ and ‘3 years after Poptropica’became a thing’, but my point still stands xD. Whoops.

  10. Mighty Gamer says:

    Poptropica Worlds is alright. There are some cool changes. Having a home is cool. Being able to buy an item out of a costume instead of having to buy the whole costume is cool. Generally, the looks are better, etc. But, I still like the original Poptropica better, and I genuinely miss it.

    I don’t bother with Poptropica Worlds anymore (since playing for the first 2 times) because it had loads of lag, bugs, and is just generally more annoying to play around with. I can’t get lost in the game for hours at a time. I could with Poptropica 1.0. I get that Poptropica Worlds is still early on, but even so, I agree that it’s pay-to-play now, and should’ve been more carefully created/planned to our liking.

    I’m sorry Poptropica Creators, but I just want Poptropica 1.0 back. Poptropica 1.0 was simple, fun, ran more smoothly, and the majority of us had fun with it, younger or older. Honestly, could’ve just revamped the whole entire game, but kept the same feel to it – just made it better. A new house, a new Home Island, new outfits, new shop set-up, Crisis Caverns (!), new everything. It’d take a lot more work, but the end result would be a lot more profitable. Now, that would’ve been awesome.

    Thanks for reading, all.

    • LizzyPop27 says:

      Yes! I agree with this so much! They should have taken more time to make it a better game overall instead of releasing it and having it be a complete and total nightmare. It is always lagging and buggy and it definitely isn’t a game that you can get lost in like the old Poptropica. With every new update I become more and more disappointed as it seems like just another everyday pay-to-play game that eventually gets forgotten about overtime…

  11. Starving Cereal (SC) says:

    I agree with Wolfy’s point especially. On its own, the 20% discount seems fair to both members and non members, but when you take into account the fact that half of everything in Worlds is pretty much members only, then it’s a bum deal on both sides.

    I feel kinda sad, really. I’ve been cautiously optimistic regarding Worlds for a long time, but honestly in general I’m not fond of the way they’ve been taking things in. It’s frustrating, but hey, there’s still the original Poptropica, right?

    sigh

  12. Trusty penguin says:

    Even though I prefer poptropica original, I am still playing worlds. However, it’s really disappointing that the creators are putting in members only things in their first few updates, instead of things that can be fully enjoyed by everyone, like friends and realms. Poptropica worlds doesn’t need to better for members than the original. There other ways to make money. Have you ever seen an ad in poptropica worlds?

  13. greedyshadow says:

    I can understand how Poptropica Worlds appears to be a “pay-to-play” game than a free game. Membership items and accessories are meant to be exclusive, something that’ll be cool to add, but not really required to play/enjoy the game. Although it has to be balanced too, at least half of the stuff is for members and non-members. But, the thing is, some of those stuff were always free or do not seem necessary to be a membership exclusive.😐

    Though this DOES NOT get even close to CP where the best thing you can get is a t-shirt and a cap, and where the developers are extremely ignorant, who also thinks Frozen is good enough to have like THREE party’s.😔

    • Slanted Fish says:

      Comparing it to Club Penguin may be a bit of a stretch at this point, but some players feel it’s heading in that direction. Hopefully by calling attention to it, we can advise Poptropica to pull away from going a similar route. It may be worth noting I haven’t played CP for many years, but Poptropica has managed to hold my attention for all these years – so Poptropica has clearly been doing something right all this time, and it’d be a shame to lose that now with these Worlds updates.

  14. Maroon Jumper says:

    I agree with everything this post says! Merch is a better way to go. I also miss Original Pop. Instead of adding Worlds, I think they should have added more Islands and other cool features instead of making a brand new game and maybe advertised it differently to attract more people. I respect the creators decision , but those are just my thoughts.

  15. greedyshadow says:

    Adding more merch is a good idea! Do you know how long they left the promo code thing? It’ll be totally awesome if they add the promo codes to Pop Worlds.

    P.S. Am I the only one who thinks that the Black Astroknight looks a lot cooler than it should be? (Just think what the Lightning Knight would look like😁)

    • Slanted Fish says:

      Entering promo codes is still an option on Poptropica Original, if that’s what you mean. I agree that it would be awesome on Worlds too. 😀

      Also, I do like the re-worked clothing on Pop Worlds, so hopefully they keep adding more – not just new ones (though those are great too) but also old favorites like the Lightning Knight!

  16. Magic Snowball says:

    Hmm, membership is a problem, but Poptropica does need money. However, I agree that they shouldn’t go overkill. Maybe they should make some shop items free for members but non-members have to pay? (That’s credits, not real money XD)

    • Slanted Fish says:

      That’s a possible idea. Right now their deal is members get 20% off on everything, but they did give members some free items in this update, so they could have made it that it would cost more credits for non-members (instead of restricting them).

What's popping, Poptropicans?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s