Neopets Official Artwork
Image via World of Neopets

It’s 2023 and Neopets Has Never Felt So Alive | An Interview with CEO Dominic Law

Prima Games and Dominic Law discuss the absent Premium sale, Unconverted Neopets, inflation, and more!

This year Neopets has received far more attention than previous years due to the site entering a new era with a new dedicated team, substantial financial investments, increased advertisement including aligning with John Legend, and a greater sense of community through increasing transparency.

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We recently had the opportunity to interview Neopet’s CEO Dominic Law to discuss what the new era of Neopets looks like, how the Neopets team plans to balance updating the game whilst maintaining the nostalgia that fans hold dear, and information regarding many of the most requested Neopets features such as Keyquest and Habitarium.

What do you think makes Neopets still worth investing in in 2023? How do you plan to attract new players to the website when the majority of the player base still exists due to nostalgia?

Dominic Law, Neopets CEO: “I think there’s a few ways that we’re looking at this. So first of all, I think it’s a very unique space that Neopets is in now, that being a game that has been ongoing for close to twenty-four years and celebrating our quarter century anniversary soon. It’s very interesting how we have preserved the whole early internet culture. There’s not just nostalgia from the way that a lot of our close to 150 million lapsed users all have this nostalgia and fond childhood memories, but as a community as a whole. As a gaming platform that survived two decades of the evolution of the internet, we preserve the purity of the early internet culture. I think it’s interesting how it can be seen as a historical relic that is very interesting for even new users to explore.

I think although a lot of relapsed users are coming back because of nostalgia, we also feel like, the original game, there’s a huge value for it to be a space for new generations of users to explore what early internet culture means. Being one of the first successful MMORPGs; like a first online community where we’ve inspired a generation of users and gamers to understand the internet, understand the world of gaming, and also making friends online. We existed countless years before social media like Myspace or Facebook, and other social media companies, and I think that that definitely worth something. It’s one of our main investment pieces when it comes to making sure that we can keep the brand alive. There’s a lot more that we could do to make sure that the Neopets brand is kept afloat so hopefully players for generations to come get to enjoy what I’ve personally enjoyed, and Priscilla, what you have enjoyed during your childhood.”

It’s interesting that you say that, because I definitely see some people who have created accounts for their children, and their children play with them now too. So, it definitely has become a generational thing.

“Exactly. We’ve witnessed a lot of changes in the whole gaming industry in the past few decades. Having a glimpse of how it was very early on when this whole evolution began, is quite an exciting and interesting journey.”

As a Neopets player yourself, did you ever see yourself working your way up to CEO, or was it a right place, right time situation?

“If you asked the same question five years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be where I am now. I would say since I’ve joined Netdragon, the parent company of Neopets, one of the topics that I’ve been exploring with my colleagues, and my former boss was understanding what the current state of Neopets was. And eventually persuading the senior management, and the whole team to buy in on this whole idea of spinning Neopets off as an independent company, and hopefully we could bring it back and create a lot more than what it has been achieving in the past decade. It’s definitely a very exciting journey.”

Neopets Faeries
Image via World of Neopets

What would you say to players who are worried that the majority of financial investment and manpower will be poured into the World of Neopets app as opposed to the website?

“I think that’s probably a misconception or miscommunication from our end to be honest. Our major focus and the core of our strategy is to put a lot of our effort and resources into what the community wants the most. Which in their words is ‘fix the site’. We’re definitely pouring a lot more resources into reviving the whole IP and reviving the brand as a whole. A main pillar of that is actually fixing the original and making sure that our users and most long-term supporters are cared about.”

How do you plan to handle the tension between giving Neopets a major facelift and still maintaining the nostalgia that many players are here for?

“That’s an ongoing debate, even among our fans and existing players, on whether we should drive for more conversion, call it modernizing the platform. I think there’s a fine balance between making sure that we stay true to our DNA, stay true to the Neopets brand and make sure that the nostalgic experience is always there. But there are a lot of things that we’re also optimizing during this process to make sure that we’re more future proofed and able to attract new generations of users to join this platform and have an experience that matches their expectation.

There’s a fine balance and part of this is we’re always getting feedback from our community, and we’re looking forward to building up the community. As part of this, we’re launching an ambassador program, which will invite our most hardcore players and contributors from the Neopets community to help us and guide us along the way. There will be a lot of checks and balances. Something that we’re trying to drive at that will be very different from previous years of development, we’ll try to be a lot more transparent, listen a lot more to our community, and make sure what we’re working on is demanded by our community. That while we balance future proofing the website, we’re also making sure that the Neopets IP is still being enjoyed and driving existing users’ engagement.”

That is clearly evident since the takeover, there’s been a lot more transparency and things have been improved. The Flash games are a big one, for example. So, everyone’s grateful to have those back.

“I think that’s one of our biggest achievements. We’ve been working day and night to bring it back. So now we have over one hundred games, that’s over one hundred mini games that are playable on the website. Two months ago, it was still probably around fifteen. We’re definitely trying to continue to execute and deliver, as well as making sure that our fans will be excited, and returning users would get as close to the original experience as possible.”

Speaking of restoring content, do you plan to restore aspects of the website such as Key Quest and Habitarium?

“Those two are probably the most demanded aspects from our community members. We’ve been hearing repeatedly from our community that those are the two side games that they’ve enjoyed the most. So, we are looking more into it. We have been studying what we know and trying to get more feedback from the community. Some of the new game experiences that we’ve been planning and building, for example, World of Neopets, will be drawing a lot of inspiration from these games. There are many elements that we’re drawing from and will be brought back. But so far, we’re still exploring whether it’s possible to bring back more of what our community loves the most. But definitely, looking into that.”

Screenshot by Prima Games

Can we talk about the collaboration between John Legend and Neopets and how it will work? What can we expect to see in the future?

“I think there’s a lot of things that we’re exploring together. As you may know, John Legend has been a great supporter of the Neopets IP and brand. We are planning to do a lot more exciting things together. But a lot of these details are still being fine-tuned, explored, and finalized. So, I would say stay tuned to our future announcements, I think there will be a lot more exciting things that I will be able to share and talk about.”

With Neopets having a significant amount of customization items, do you think it is possible that we could see a new species of Neopet someday?

“That I will say is, if not one of the top three, one of the top ten initiatives that we’re exploring and looking at. But, as you may know, like bringing back the website and the fixes, there are a lot of items that are on our to do lists. To be honest, we’re quite open minded and flexible. So, we are trying to work a lot closer with the community and see how we can prioritize and execute along the way. But there are a lot of tasks, and some of the most prominent and immediate tasks we are still working very hard to solve.

Introducing a new species is definitely something that’s on our mind. But the exact timeline is hard, very hard to say. I would say that we are working on developing new hero characters, we are also developing a new plot. Whether there will be a new species, I would wait for our narrative team to continue to explore when the best timing to review and talk more about it is.”

Do you plan to tackle inflation in the game? For most players, obtaining items such as stamps isn’t possible. This means that there’s so many avatars out of reach. There has been a range of ideas floating around, such as the rotating Hidden Tower spot.

“That was definitely one of our near-term focuses. The inflation problem that we’ve been seeing for the past decade, which hasn’t been tackled. We understand that for our lapsed users to be able to come back and enjoy the game it is one of the more prominent issues. It’s a huge problem. To be honest, it’s a million-dollar question on how we could solve it. But we’re definitely looking into all avenues and getting all the feedback that we can from the community. There are a lot of very prominent community members, and also a lot of active members that have been giving us the feedback on what we should be looking into and suggestions on how we can fix it.

We would love to have a more balanced view, and to fix parts of it, but it’s probably not something that we can fix overnight. It’s not something that we could fix once and for all, it will be more of an ongoing continuous process where we’ll be having more checks and balances, a lot of fine tuning of the game economic, and fine tuning the game metrics. As you know, Neopets is a very deep and broad game where there’s a lot of things going on at the same time. So, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what to do to in order to fix it. But we are definitely exploring the economy as a whole and trying to solve as much as we can and keep on delivering.”

It’s definitely hard because you have to consider long term players who have obtained their wealth by playing the game. And then just the people who purposely inflate items. So, it’s definitely a hard balance there.

“Definitely. Also, on top of that, a lot of lapsed players are coming back because of all the recent announcements. And then that also changes the equation of how much currency is actually in play, and then the rate it is earned and the rate that it is burned. I would say that it definitely takes a team of economists to really solve this, but we are working hard and trying as much as we can to solve it.”

Image via World of Neopets

Is there a timeframe on when unconverted pets will be released? The Community Survey was quite some time ago, and people are wondering when it’s going to be implemented. When they are, will they be tradable? And will the original ones be grandfathered in some way?

“How should I put this, I think we’re fine tuning some of the final steps of our plan. So, I would say we will be releasing more information pretty soon. I don’t think our fans will be disappointed and our community should be excited about this upcoming announcement. The exact details are still being finetuned, so I don’t want to share too much about it. But yes, as you pointed out, the survey has been ongoing for a while. So, it’s definitely on top of our team’s mind. For as long as the survey has been out, we have been working on it. As we discussed with the inflation problem, it’s part of how to get our lapsed users back, and so there is a lot of balancing between decisions. I would say we’re pretty close to announcing more details. Of course, even after the announcement, if there’s any kind of feedback or concerns, feel free to reach out and we’ll definitely look into it. Because this would probably be one of our biggest accomplishments within our teams.”

Last year’s Premium sale was skipped without any communication. Will there be a premium sale this year?

“The Premium sale is one of those things that we are trying to restructure to make better sense of. For example, there are multiple tiers that you can subscribe to. But some of the benefits among the tiers might not be transparent. So, we are trying to restructure our Premium sale as a whole when it comes to the subscription itself and what benefits different tiers of subscribers would actually get. Right now, monthly subscribers and annual subscribers are not differentiated. So, it is something that our team is looking into. And then hopefully within the next month or two, we will be releasing a new plan to make sure that it’s more attuned to what modern day game economies standards are. As well as what our community members can make better financial sense of.”

So, in the future we could expect the yearly membership to have more perks than the month-by-month membership?

“Yeah, I will say that. At the very least there would be some changes.”

With a new passionate team, much needed investment, and consistent improvements, it has never been a better time to either log back into your Neopets account or begin anew.

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Priscilla Wells
Priscilla is both the weekend editor and a freelance writer at Prima Games. She began working at Prima Games in early 2023. Prior to this, she spent nine years writing for both her own personal gaming blog, and other related websites. Priscilla has grown up playing video games, and most often plays her PS5 and Nintendo Switch consoles. You can find her playing Final Fantasy XIV, RuneScape, Pokemon GO, or lost in the latest RPG to release. She is an Australian living in the United States with her American husband, three children, and her Basset Hound. Before moving to the United States, Priscilla obtained a Bachelors of Secondary Education majoring in English and Japanese Language. This allowed her to teach English and Japanese in a high school setting. You can follow her on Twitter/X at @Cilllah