Neopets Looks to NFTs to Revive Its Early-Aughts Glory

The virtual pet universe has tapped Solana’s Raydium exchange for an NFT drop high on nostalgia.

Sep 22, 2021 at 5:40 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 22, 2021 at 6:05 p.m. UTC

Can a pivot to the metaverse help a once-loved brand return to prominence?

One-time gaming giant Neopets has announced the launch of a non-funbile token (NFT) collection, “The Neopets Metaverse Collection,” currently set for release in mid-October.

The drop, which will be hosted by Solana-native Raydium exchange, will be a run of 20,500 “equally unique, algorithmically generated lovable Neopets” featuring “variable backgrounds, assets, clothing, and personality,” per the release. The target per-NFT sale price and method was not disclosed.

When it comes to NFT marketplaces, collectors have an embarrassment of riches from which to choose.

With dozens of options across nearly as many chains, securing market share often comes down to the quality of licensing and intellectual property a platform can attract. Dapper Labs’ Flow blockchain, for instance, has proven to be a success almost entirely on the back of the NBA Top Shot tradable highlights collection.

Raydium, which launched its DropZone distribution platform just two weeks ago, has scored a major victory on this front by securing such a well-known brand.

Neopets, which was launched by a pair of college students in 1997, led the web in several key “stickiness” metrics at the peak of its popularity. In 2004, users spent three hours a month on the site – the best in any website category, per Nielsen.

Ownership of the company traded hands three times between 2005 and 2017, however, and traffic metrics have long been on the decline. In 2020, the CEO for current owner JumpStart Games, Jim Czulewicz, estimated there are just 1.5 million monthly active players.

Metaverse mania

While the brand and website have lost the luster enjoyed in the early aughts, market trends indicate the NFT sale could be a blowout: recent NFT drops with nostalgic appeal have seen tremendous success.

Treeverse, Ethermore and Forgotten Runes Wizard’s Cult – all collections that harken back to fantasy games such as “Runescape,” another early 2000s hit – have proven to be popular on the secondary market, and all are likewise exploring in-game functionality.

Additionally, major brands making a pivot to the metaverse is quickly becoming a trend. In June, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced in a video to employees that the company would be transitioning to a five-year metaverse strategy.

As a brand, Neopets may be well-suited for such a shift – the website already includes a digital currency, neopoints (though it is not backed by blockchain technology), and includes dozens of mini-games. By many definitions, the Neopets world is already a metaverse.

The press release did not contain any hints as to whether this would be the first step in a larger shift for Neopets, and JumpStart Games did not respond for a request for comment by the time of publication.

DISCLOSURE

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Andrew Thurman is a tech reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on DeFi.