Virtual pet site
- This article was considered for deletion at Wikipedia on December 13 2013. This is a backup of Wikipedia:Virtual_pet_site. All of its AfDs can be found at Wikipedia:Special:PrefixIndex/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Virtual_pet_site, the first at Wikipedia:Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Virtual_pet_site.
A virtual pet website, ' or VPS is a website on which users interact with browser-based virtual pets. A virtual pet site is typically based within a virtual world for users to explore (for example, see ), often consisting of a virtual currency, game items and minigames. A virtual pet site may also take the form of a browser-based massively multiplayer online game (MMO), in which users are able to battle their pets with other player's pets, as well as trade and auction game items to other players. Additionally, virtual pet sites may offer sociability features such as discussion forums, private messaging, art galleries and social groups. For this reason, some virtual pet sites have been regarded as a type of social networking site, such as Subeta and Moshi Monsters.
Virtual pet web sites differ from the virtual pets represented on digital devices or on desktop software due to their ability to be accessed from any location without the necessity of having installed software or a physical component. Virtual pet sites may hence take on one of several formats. Firstly, virtual pets may be represented by a graphic for which users may create a hyperlink to on external websites. This format typically does not include a virtual world. The virtual pet is usually given a webpage on which its graphic and its stats are shown and the virtual pet may be affected by users who visit this webpage. For example, in Dragon Cave virtual dragons grow and develop based on other user's visits to the pet's homepage while in The Dragon Empire virtual dragons are bred amongst players for genetically enhanced markings and mutations. The advantage of this format is the relative simplicity of its implementation. Most virtual pet site also allow the user to change the appearance of their pet using items such as "Morphing Potions" or "Paint Brushes". Some sites, such as IcePets allow the user to change their pet into any previous unlocked form, which adds a unique spin to festive occasions.
Another approach is to have real-world products linked to an online service. For example, Webkinz provide a code with plush toys which they sell as merchandise. Using this code, users can access an online service which provides them with an online representation of their plush toy in the form of a virtual pet. This virtual pet representation of the plush toy can hence take on a distinct appearance and behavior. Finally, the virtual pet site may include the experience of a virtual world. In this format, virtual pets typically only reside in the virtual world and may not have any representation outside of the virtual pet website.
Fishferous offers a unique gameplay to their user with their virtual live aquarium. One of these virtual fish can survive for only five days before they starve, making it important for players to frequently visit the site and check on the health of their fish.
Many virtual pets sites include a virtual world for players to explore. The setting of the virtual world influences the appearance and nature of the virtual pets that inhabit it. For example, AdoptMe has a real-world setting in which the pets are based on real-world animals. Conversely, Khimeros has a fantasy setting in which unusual and disparate pet species, though based loosely on real-world animals, can be interbred to create new cross-breed species.
Commonly, the game will present players with a scene depicting various regions of the world, often in the form of a map. Players navigate through the virtual world by clicking on different parts of the scene, allowing them to visit game item shops and non-player characters (NPCs). To maintain the player's interest, each region is often designed based on a particular theme. These scenes are normally created using image maps due to their ease of implementation and wide compatibility, however, technologies such as Adobe Flash Player may also be used (for example, see ).
As with most virtual worlds, an in-game virtual currency is common in virtual pet sites. Typically, this currency is earned by playing minigames or trading items. In the case of MMO virtual pet sites, an in-game currency adds competitiveness to the gaming experience. As a result of virtual currency and item trading, a virtual economy typically emerges in virtual pet sites. Virtual items are purchased from NPC-controlled shops, which restock periodically. The act of purchasing items from NPC shops and reselling them at a higher price is an important activity for sourcing currency on some virtual pet sites, though may also increase mudflation (the inflation rate of virtual currency). Some virtual pet sites such as Neopets, Marapets and Petnebula include a virtual stock market, in which users may invest in fictitious stocks. Typically, users are limited in how many stocks they may purchase in a day to decrease mudflation. A virtual bank is also a common feature, in which users can deposit currency and gain interest on it over time.
Where a virtual world is present, the virtual pet is often imbued with stats or attributes. These attributes improve the virtual pet's ability to compete in battles with opponents or other players' pets within the virtual world. The motivation for players to enhance their pet's attributes is hence a key goal in the game. These stats may also determine the pet's wellbeing. For example, the virtual pet site PsyPets uses pet attributes correlating with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as hunger, safety, love and esteem. Furthermore, pets can often be equipped with items to enhance their stats. Items may also alter the appearance of pets, which give an aesthetic appeal in order to encourage a player to acquire such items.
Other virtual world features may include:
- User-designed houses in which to keep pets and items.
- Breeding of pets, often with the pets of other players.
- Creating user-controlled shops with which to sell items to other players.
- Quests, which often involve the delivering items to a non-player character.
- Item crafting, which involves combining items to creating new ones.
- Customizing or clothing human-like avatars.
- Battling pets with one another.
Typically, a virtual pet site will offer an array of community features, including discussion forums, private messaging and instant messaging. Players may be able to create or join groups with common interests, with each group often having its own discussion forum. Due to the large focus many virtual pet sites place on sociability features, virtual pet sites such as Neopets and Moshi Monsters have been referred to as social networking sites. Some virtual pets have also been integrated into unaffiliated social networking sites such as Facebook, as in the case of Happy Aquarium, (fluff)Friends and Super Poke Pets.
Another aspect to virtual pet site community features is user-generated content. For example, Neopets allows users to contribute fan fiction set within the virtual world, which are then published in the virtual world's newspaper. Furthermore, Neopets players may participate their pets in a "beauty contest", which involves users submitting artwork depicting their pets.
Most virtual pet sites include minigames, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. As of 9 March 2011, Marapets has 151 games. Neopets claims to have over 1000 games. However, many of these games have been moved to "games graveyard" to eventually be discontinued, having been declared obsolete or replaced by a new version of the game. Minigames typically offer rewards in the form of virtual currency or items as an incentive to play them and as a source of currency. Neopets also include a scoreboard and allows users to complete for trophies and virtual currency rewards for placing highest on the score table for the day on a particular game.
The types of games themselves can include side-scrolling games, puzzle games, chance games as well as short role-playing games (RPGs). The games of chance, however, have been met with some controversy. In 2007, Neopets received bad publicity after a parent complained about gambling games on the site, referring to the games of chance designed after slot machines, scratch cards and playing card games. Some sites also include a virtual stock market, in which users earn virtual currency by trading in fictitious stocks with fluctuating prices. Finally, virtual pet sites may offer multi-player minigames, often realized by using Flash, which users can competitively or cooperatively play together. As a part of their revenue model, Neopets offer advertisers the opportunity to promote their products by commissioning "sponsor games", which are themed around the client's product. Some products and companies advertised using this method include Tamagotchi, Wal-Mart, Cocoa Puffs, and Pepsi. Users are provided virtual currency for playing these games as an incentive.
Virtual pet sites offer a number of business models, rather than only unit sales offered by alternate virtual pet products. The business models employed by virtual pet sites include digital content, subscription-based and advertising. Digital content models generate income from the sale of special virtual items or currency. Subscription models such as the one used on Neopets grant users perks, including additional items and currency, removal of advertising or access to services which enhance gameplay. In these subscription models, basic site content is free for all registered users, with subscribers usually gaining strategic advantage over non-subscribing players. Moshi Monsters uses a freemium business model, in which basic content is free, but users are pushed to pay for a subscription. However, some sites such as FooPets require monthly subscriptions for all site content and offer no free services.
Virtual pets sites with free content are usually supported by advertising. Although conventional banner advertising is common, the gaming aspect of the website offers the opportunity to embed advertising directly into the game. For example, Neopets embed items, games and other content modeled after paying advertisers' products and services directly into the gaming experience (see Neopets immersive advertising).
Virtual pet sites may also generate income from the sale of merchandise. Websites such as Neopets and Moshi Monsters sell associated merchandise designed after their game's content, typically the virtual pets themselves. Neopets furthermore provides promotion codes with their merchandise, which can be entered into the virtual pet site to grant perks such in-game items. Webkinz, on the other hand, sells plush toys with codes to be used on their website in order to create a virtual representation of the toy in the form of a virtual pet. Hence, digital content is awarded in the virtual world with real-world purchases or vice versa, resulting in a mixed revenue model.
A number of virtual pet sites have become a commercial success. On June 20, 2005, Neopets was bought out by Viacom for an amount of $160 million. Moshi Monsters developer Mind Candy announced on February 26, 2009 that it had exceeded 15 million players and in July, 2009 Mind Candy CEO, Michael Smith, stated that its revenue was "several hundred thousand pounds per month". On 28 October 2010, their number of registered accounts exceeded 29 million and had projected sales of $100 million for 2011.
The success behind virtual pet sites may be partially due to the young age group that virtual pet sites attract, a target audience that is typically difficult to reach. However, some criticism has come from concerned parents and consumer groups as to the advertising and business models and used on virtual pet sites aimed at children. For example, Neopets has been criticized for its use of Pepsi and McDonalds advertising embedded directly into the game. In the Neopets mini-game Pepsi World, although no longer playable on the site, users had to serve customers "delicious Pepsi in order to keep them happy".
Virtual pet sites are not necessarily aimed exclusively at younger age groups, however. For example, Flight Rising, Khimeros and Aywas attempt to attract older players by stating it is aimed at older teens and adults. FooMojo CEO, Ron Hornbaker, has stated that their 85% women audience for the Facebook game Pokey! (now called FooPets!) consist of the 18-45 age group.
- List of browser-based virtual pet sites
- Digital pet
- Virtual World
- Sim horse game
- Neopets – a well publicized virtual pet site
- Browser-based Games
- Online game
- Life simulation games
- Moshi Monsters - a virtual pets game developed by Mind Candy
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