Interview with Ian, the owner of theDailyneopets

cpvr

Owner/Founder
Staff member
Community Leader
VPL Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2020
Messages
227
Reaction score
39
Points
28
Location
Texas
1: What inspired you and motivated you to create The Daily Neopets, Ian?

The Daily Neopets began in 2005, around the peak of Neopets' success. I was inspired to create a fan site because I was an active Neopets player at that time and enjoyed creating web sites.


2: How old were you when you first started developing your fan site?


I would have been 13 years old when The Daily Neopets first began.


3: Why did you name your site the daily neopets and not something else? Is there a meaning behind your name?


Yes, there is a meaning behind the site's name. "The Daily Neopets" was meant to evoke feelings of reading a daily newspaper or publication which contained everything you needed to know. The Daily Neopets strong suits has always been covering unreleased Neopets news and seasonal activities like plots.


4: How did you feel when Doug sold Neopets to Viacom?


Doug Dohring sold Neopets site to Viacom's MTV Network in June 2005 for $160 million. This was around the site's peak of success and was probably the best time to "cash out."


5: How did Neopets change under Viacom's leadership? Did Viacom make any bad decisions regarding the game? If yes, could you please tell us all about them?


I think that Viacom maintained the Neopets brand well but didn't necessarily innovate during the time that they operated the site. The NC Mall and wearable items was probably the most innovative thing to happen but Neopets was late even to that game, considering that avatar-based MMOs and "dress up avatars" existed many other places long before (i.e. Gaia).


6: It's been over 2 years now since neopets was sold to jumpstart, how did you feel about this sale at first?


I didn't have many strong opinions about the Jumpstart acquisition. If anything, I think that a smaller, more tight-knit collection of individuals may be able to revitalize Neopets. However, it seems that Jumpstart has only ran into technical problems since the acquisition (i.e. site lag and the subsequent loss of players). This is likely because Neopets' codebase has never been redesigned or refactored through its lifespan. The release of PHP 7 (the language that Neopets is primarily written in) has allowed many enterprise, high-activity web companies to shut down up to half of their web servers because of language improvements alone, whereas Neopets' backend has probably not been rewritten to benefit from these improvements.


7: Is Jumpstart doing a good job at running Neopets or a poor job?


I think that Jumpstart is doing the best that they can.


8: What changes or new features would you like to see?


I think that, if Neopets wants to reinvent itself, it cannot ignore the fact that most online gaming happens on mobile devices. Only a handful of people still game on desktop-based web browsers. I do not think that, conceptually, it would be possible to port the entirety of Neopets to a mobile app but I do think that some type of supplemental iOS/Android app would help boost interest and connectedness to the game platform.


9: Neopets didn't have a http://www.neopets.com/fansites/index.phtml]fan site[/url] directory in the past, what do you think caused them to implement this?


I was very proud of TNT for implementing this directory. I think that it helps newer, lesser experienced players connect with the best resources. It gives more legitimacy to the fan community, which is a very important part of Neopets' history.


10: How would you rate the economy right now? Is it still easy to earn neopoints or has it become somewhat harder to make money?


Neopets has lost a significant portion of its playerbase with the recent bouts of site lag. This means that there is less existing items and Neopoints in circulation, which makes the free markets less active. This has likely caused rare items to become rarer and certain legacy items to become less accessible. However, with the restock system and how fast moving that is, the markets will likely self-correct in due time.


: What promotional tactics did you use to grow your fan site? Have you ever launched a paid advertising campaign?


The Daily Neopets has never launched a paid advertising campaign. Our site is discovered primarily through content listed on search engines, the Neoboards, and word of mouth ("hey, this site has a great guide for...").


12: How many different guides and articles do you have? How often do you publish new ones?


Our total article and guide count recently passed 1000, not including item database and weapon pages. There has not be that much of an influx of new content to cover in recent days, so we are working to improve the quality of our existing content and cover seasonal events as needed.


13: What other fan sites are currently your competitors?


We consider other Neopets fan sites and resources to be our friends. It used to be a bit more cut-throat, but as the community has matured, I think that we can all respect one another. There are so many quality resources out there that a lot of great communities have put together over a number of years. The Daily Neopets has its strong suits while others have theirs. We all accomplish something differently.


14: How active are you and your staff members on social media? Does social media drive a lot of traffic to your site on a monthly basis or not really?


We have found that a lot of Neopets players aren't super engaged with the Neopets game platform via Facebook and Twitter. Chances are, if you're playing Neopets, you're probably not on Facebook at the same time. Consequently, social media platforms are simply an auxiliary presence that link back to our articles but aren't a main driver of traffic.


15: Do you think that Neopets is losing a lot of daily active players? If yes, what pet sites do you think they're playing now?


Yes. I think Neopets has lost a significant portion of their active playerbase. I imagine most people have moved on from Neopets to other types of MMOs and mobile games on iOS or Android.

16: There's been a lot of horror stories over the years where users have been frozen for no reason. Is Neopets somewhat freeze happy or do you think that they have a script that freezes people?

Running a virtual pet site myself, http://eggcave.com, I can guarantee you that Neopets has a suite of automated tools that detect and report suspicious activities to their human monitors. We do at Egg Cave; it's inevitable once your playerbase reaches a critical mass. Scammers become predictable. Cheaters become predictable. You'd be surprised at how people try to circumvent account restraints and protections, all for the purpose of getting a little ahead in the system.

I doubt that these tools auto-freeze without human intervention but humans probably "ok" the account freeze if it looks suspicious enough.


18: What are your thoughts on Neopets' support system?


I submitted a support ticket once. It was automatically closed within 10 minutes with a canned, automated response. Not very personable, as far as first impressions go. TNT are tough people to contact.


19: Where do you see pet sites or sim games heading in their near future? Will Neopets remain the most successful pet site or do you see another pet site beating Neo one day?


I think that online gaming has shifted significantly toward iOS, Android, and mobile platforms. Neopets biggest attraction today is actually nostalgia, not inventiveness or the level of fun. That being said, I believe that Neopets will always have a place in the virtual pet landscape, so long as a company is funding it and running it. But I doubt another pet site (as we have known them being browser based) will ever "beat" or surpass the Neopets legacy.

There's a time and place for everything. The Internet has greatly changed since Neopets began.


20: How much traffic does the daily neopets and tdnforum receive on a daily basis? What's the most traffic that you've ever received in one day?


The Daily Neopets and TDN Forums combined receive hundreds of thousands of unique visitors on a monthly basis.


21: Besides TDN, how many other sites do you currently own? Are they just as popular as TDN or are they still in the building phrase?


I also own and operate http://eggcave.com. I think that it's been just as successful at The Daily Neopets. I'm happy and proud of it. :)


22: How many visits does the keyword Neopets bring to your site every month?


n/a


23: Do you have a lot of staff members or just a few? Please tell us about them.


We have a team of about 20-30 people who actively work on the site. They are some of the most talented and dedicated Neopets players that I know. Our team of volunteers is what has made the site great.


24: Where do you see your site and online community heading in the next 2-5 years?


The Daily Neopets will continue to be a web site dedicated to the Neopets community and helping people become better players and earn more Neopoints. We will likely continue our course of "maintaining" much like Neopets itself has. And, yeah, we do have a few projects up our sleeves that we're excited to release within the coming months.


25: I remember when Neopets used to display the numbers of players that they had online on their index, do you have any idea why this feature was axed?


Because they've lost so many players.


26: If you never got actively involved in the Neopets community, what do you think you'd be doing instead?


Being an active and dedicated online gamer myself, I probably would have ended up being a part of some other MMO fan community.


27: If Neopets was never launched, do you think pet sites would still exist or not really? What do you think caused Neo to become so successful?


Neopets began at a very critical point of growth in the history of the Internet. Nothing will ever be the same and that time of the "life of the Internet" will never be repeated. At the time Neopets was successful in the late 90s and early/mid 2000s, Neopets lead the way in innovating the space of online interaction. Neopets wasn't successful because the "pets were so cool" (they were, don't get me wrong) but because a virtual world and its possibilities were so expansive and limitless that it captured an entire generation of people growing up on the Internet.

Today, that idea isn't as appealing because humanity is much more well-adjusted to the fact that the Internet is limitless.

Virutal pets, as a genre, will always exist in the future. But nothing will ever grow or be like Neopets itself.


28: Are there more fan sites around for Neo now than in the past?


There are less fan sites today than there were before.


29: How did you feel when Neopets revamped their battle dome? Do you prefer their new one or their old one?


It was interesting when they revamped it. I don't have much else to say.


30: What's the current state of Neopets like right now? Is it doing good or bad?


I think that it's doing alright. Jumpstart is doing the best they can.


31: Do you have any advice for developers that are trying to build their own pet site or sim game?


Step 1: do your research. Step 2: make your game habit-forming and addictive. There are many studies being done in the field of neuroscience that are beginning to quantify (1) why we play online games (2) what makes them "fun" and (3) the concept of "variable risk --> rewards." If you want to build a game, read about it.


32: What do you think are the main things that can cause a site to become successful and popular? What can cause a site to fail?


That question is very broad and it often depends on the market and the space. Web sites used to become popular under the idea of "if you build it, they will come." That does not hold true today because the Internet market is so much more competitive. Today, you have to think about disrupting and re-innovating the space you exist in
 
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