Neopets CEO Dominic Law On Ditching The Metaverse, Inflation In Neopia, And John Legend

Neopets CEO Dominic Law is a curious character. According to his LinkedIn, Law started out at NetDragon in 2020, became Chief Metaverse Officer of Neopets in 2021, and after leading a management buyout in July 2023, took over as CEO. One of the first things Neopets announced after the buyout was its pivot away from the Metaverse and crypto, a decision that millennials everywhere hailed as a step in the right direction. Neopets called it the start of a new era, and said that it didn’t have plans to include crypto or Web3 in any of its future projects.


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When crypto was still trendy, many corporations started hunting for ways to incorporate NFTs, crypto, and the blockchain into their websites and products. Most companies quietly abandoned said efforts once that particular bubble popped, but some (cough, Ubisoft, cough) are continuing to press on. It’s rare that a company will come straight out and admit it’s made a huge misstep, but Neopets is intent on listening to its audience.

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“The main reason why we backpedalled is that this is not what our core users want,” Law tells me. “The game itself is quite broken. Focusing on building a new game in the Web3 space doesn’t make sense. It alienates our most core users who want to play a Neopets classic game. After discussing and listening to the community, we realised that we should reprioritise and fix the most pressing issues, like the site being broken because Flash got discontinued.”

Neopets

I get the distinct impression that Neopet’s previous parent company was trying to squeeze profit from an archaic kid’s website, which is how the swing at NFTs and Web3 came about in the first place. I asked if the company was likely to return to that technology, and again I got that common refrain – the user base doesn’t want it, so it’s not important right now. “We believe that certain parts of blockchain technology could potentially improve gameplay, for example, connecting the old game with a new game with certain in-game assets. But does it have to be crypto-based? Probably not,” Law explains. “The crypto element is what our users are most against. Because it’s a very pay-to-win culture, very hype-driven, most of the gamers are here for profit, not for fun. And I think those things are all against what Neopets is about.”

There’s something he’s not saying though. “And they hate it?” I prompt, and Law laughs. “Oh my god, yeah. But that’s the silver lining. Because of this move, we learned how united our user base is, and we see the potential that as long as we work alongside them and build with them, there’s a lot we can achieve with the community,” Law adds. “They’re very passionate. It was [this] evidence that helped me persuade the NetDragon senior management team to allow us to do this, to split it off and try to revive it.”

It’s all about listening to the community, because so many of Neopets’ users left when Flash discontinued in 2017, and Law is now trying to win them back. “The website was ill-managed,” he admits, and Neopets is more of a historical relic to a younger generation than a viable game. The first step is to upgrade the infrastructure and use nostalgia to draw older players back, but in the long run Neopets is trying to use merchandise to get players to engage with the IP in different ways, especially those who left the game behind.

It’s building mobile games in an attempt to revive the IP, like Match 3 game Faerie’s Hope and the town-building game Island Builder, which is in the final beta stage. There’s also World of Neopets, a 3D open-world game drawing inspiration from Animal Crossing, where you can build a dream home for your Neopets and play mini-games inspired by Mario Party. It’s made it easier to get your old account back, so you don’t need access to the email you registered with. It’s collaborating with Upper Deck to make a physical trading card game launching next year, which is likely to be their biggest external partnership for 2024.

Neopets Faerie Queen Fyora In Front Of A Rainbow

It’s even looking into bringing Neopets into different mediums. “We’ll always explore whether there are good ways for us to bring Neopets to the big screen,” Law says. “Either through an animated series or through, maybe eventually, a Neopets movie. I think these are all possibilities.” When asked what happened with the animated television series announced to be in development in 2020 that never materialised, Law says, “I don’t know what even happened. The previous management team, to be honest, like probably over promised or released that prematurely. Ever since I took over, I’ve never seen anything related to that in previous conversations.” It seems that anything discussed before the takeover was discontinued, and will never come to pass.

But that may not be enough to pull old users back, because Neopets has a serious inflation problem. Players who have been around for a long time, or who come back to it in future, will likely find that their Neopoints are now worthless. If you’re familiar with the site, you know it has both a banking system and a stock market system – some players have been collecting interest for decades. Law says Neopets has been introducing rare items, in-game events and item recycling drives so there are sinks for these Neopoints, but he admits it’s a “million dollar question” that has to be tackled “bit by bit”. Another issue: bots. “There are botting issues where auto buyers and auto sellers control the economy and snap up all the good stuff, and they’re kind of controlling the supply,” he says. “We’re looking into that to find ways to make it harder for botters to use these programs.”

Finally, I have to ask about John Legend being the new face of Neopets. Law says that Legend has a huge global audience and his core target market overlaps surprisingly well with Neopets, but he also says that Legend and his family are all Neopets fans. I tell him that I heard Chrissy Teigen used to be a Neopets forum mod, and he confirms he was aware of this too. It’s still unclear why they chose Legend over Teigen, who is a famous model and TV presenter herself – perhaps because she was publicly lambasted for cyberbullying in 2021 – but Legend is a big name that could help boost Neopets’ publicity with its older and more nostalgic audience.

For those OG Neopets fans, the site is going to remain very much the same as you remember. Neopets will be trying to reach new fans with their new mobile games and partnerships, but the website will carry on its classic aesthetics and features for years to come. “The one thing that differentiates us is that we preserved the gaming culture because we didn’t evolve,” Law says. “We survived this whole gaming mobile revolution, and we’re still around. We’ll definitely keep that.” For better or for worse, Neopets isn’t changing.

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