Back in 2016, the PHB wrote an open letter to Poptropica with suggestions based on players’ frustrations. And Poptropica responded! While not every tip was taken, the letter did kick off some good discussions. Now in 2022, we’re back with another, and we’d love to hear your thoughts again. Enjoy!
Six years have passed and many things have changed since the last letter, from the fanbase to the state of the game as a whole.
The Poptropica community has largely been very passionate. We’ve loved how an online Flash game for kids could have such interesting concepts and fun characters. For years, the Creators spilled their hearts into this game, and it showed. Poptropica was not only intended to be a fun game in the present, but to “inspire a next generation of creators” in the future. But lately, that fire seems to have gone out. And it really boils down to one major point:
We’re not seeing convincing signs that Poptropica can or will fulfill the promise of bringing back the old islands, or at least bringing to newer content the quality we’ve come to love from the classics.
Sure, we know it’s not easy to rebuild the islands that used to live on Flash. But considering the pace in which they were made (at its peak in 2012, Poptropica released 9 islands in a year), it’s a bit baffling how they’re now taking months and years to be ported into Haxe. It doesn’t help that we haven’t heard many updates on this front, beyond the news at the beginning of this year that episodic islands are up next.
While we can’t speak for everyone, we do know that many fans (including myself, Maryann) rarely touch the game in its current state. A significant portion of the fanbase we know are only passionate about the Poptropica of the past, not the present.
Poptropica may have always been branded as a kids’ game, but its older stories held a special depth that made it more than a superficial experience. The many fans who grew up with the game and still find things to appreciate about it as teens and young adults can attest to that. But Poptropica’s newer content doesn’t quite capture that magic. Some Poptropica fans, like Jia, who created the Poptropica Dating Sim as a silly but genuine “love letter to the game,” don’t see the appeal in sticking around if Poptropica only gets more childish. For Jia, “That love’s lost.”
Yes, there are still regular players and fans with a more positive outlook about the game’s current state. But how much longer do you think you can keep them with unfulfilled promises and little content in the game? Why should players bother with cool costumes and pet accessories when our avatars barely spend any time wearing them in island adventures?
We know the Poptropica team has changed. We’ve seen top staffers let go unwillingly, confirmed that founder Jeff Kinney no longer works with Pop, and heard the news of former CEO Jess Brallier resigning after his team was devalued by new ownership. All that obviously changes dynamics, but we’re not here to stir up drama. This letter is about the quality and longevity of the game, and compared to the golden days, the current team just hasn’t matched the creative passion of what was.
Poptropica is at a great risk of becoming lost media, and that is sad. You show ads and references to beloved characters from the old islands who aren’t even present in the game. Are you showing that you still hold onto the promise of old islands, or are you just leading us on?
We’re not making insane demands. We just want a quality game, and to know if we’re hoping for something that won’t happen. It’s hard to believe you are hard at work porting lost islands when you put so much of your time and energy into side-quests with detailed and new animations, and even expanding into Roblox — building onto a game that isn’t yours. It’s fine to try new things, but are there resources left for what players want most: the old islands?
You can tell us Poptropica is doing fine now — that it’s not dying — but that’s becoming harder to believe when we look at what the game has become. It’s hard to believe when you used to publish bestselling books and were even within reach of a TV series. Even the player activity and fandom isn’t as big as it used to be. Young and old, we’ve always wanted our perspectives heard by the Pop team, but a lack of communication on our key questions and concerns has not helped.
I love what this game could have been. I love telling other fans how Astro-Knights is still on the Wikipedia explanation of clockpunk, because it’s one of the few examples of such a niche but interesting genre. I loved Jeff Heim’s music scores that went above and beyond, including the soundtracks for islands that have yet to return.
I’ve written quite cringey fanfiction which fortunately was made prior to my online presence. I’ve posted fan art on Instagram of characters that I thought could have been so interesting if they were to return in future islands, or if Pop made more spin-off books focusing on them. And currently, I have been writing and sharing The Villain Saga, a spec script with said characters. But I don’t know how much longer I can keep creating hype for something that doesn’t exist anymore save for a fan-made archive that one person made in their free time.
Without a passionate team putting out quality islands, Poptropica looks bound for its end in the coming years. Other games and media can, and have, grabbed the attention of your once loyal fans. At the rate things are going, most of the old islands will still be lost to time, and your aging fanbase may not stick around for your next surprises. Whether we’re talking from a business or creative standpoint, it could be game over.
Please prove me wrong.
Castori honorem ~ Maryann/Smart Bubbles