Photo Courtesy: The Verge.
Do you remember Webkinz? Did you get a chance to play with the stuffed animals back in the early 2000s? Today I just bumped into the last of its kind being tossed around by a dog in the driveway. I got instant goosebumps looking at the poor stuffed animal being mishandled. Yet it made our day back then.
The animal instantly reminded me of the good old days with a huge hit of nostalgia of the days we would spend hours on ends playing online. Back then, our entire school and neighborhood were obsessed with these stuffed toys called Webkinz. Back then, popularity was not determined by looks! For a while, how cool you were depended entirely on how many Webkinz you had. Seriously, this was the order of the day in school. Webkinz ruled the world back then. There were some guys who had over 40 Webkinz back then despite being in 2nd grade. Most of us had like three to five Webkinz, and some did not have any.
Some kids had the more popular Webkinz like the Shark or Splash dragon. Those appeared to be way cooler than the rest of us! These things were really intense. Back then most of us were just kids, chubby innocent, and easily amazed by stuffed animals and teddy bears! Plus, technology was still developing, and we had very few toys or electronics to waste our time on the screen.
Owning the Webkinz was a direct ticket to winning friends back then. You would have a full house of friends in your home the whole weekend! I don’t remember the other Webkinz I had back then, but I believe I had a few. I remember spending a lot of time on the Webkinz website, playing arcade games, participating in the fashion show. I was so engrossed in the Webkinz world back then.
Back in 2006, you would see Webkinz in stores. There was no shortage of these toys. But nowadays, I don’t think the plushies are even in production anymore. It has been a while since I saw any of them I the stores, or even talking about them in online communities.
Today I thought it would be fun to revisit the dormant site to see whether it was good as I remember, or if anything at all has really changed. So, Webkinz was first released in 2005 when a bunch of plush toys was massed produced, and the site was launched. The idea was spawned by the toy company called Ganz. Which was an awesome company back then founded by the Ganz family. And since the success of their Webkinz brand, they started the Webkinz Foundation that supports children's programs around the world.
Unfortunately, the site webkinzfoundation.org is no longer active and it has been taken by a fish pond blog or something. Accessing and playing Webkinz online was free back then. But that was only the case if you wanted to have the non-deluxe plebeian experience. So to improve your socioeconomic standing, you’d have to pay some money for a monthly subscription, and it was not cheap. And honestly, I think I did put in a lot of money, even more than Wizard 101. If you are not content with the free pet you are given, you would have to go out and buy the plush toys and enter the special code attached to them. Nothing was worse back in the day than buying a Webkinz and eventually finding out that your code was stolen.
I remember I once cried when I could not immediately play with the penguin Webkinz my dad bought for me. It was devastating to me back in then since the only joy in my life was Webkinz. At this time, all we were obsessed with was the online games since they were just being introduced at that time, like sonic, Wizard 101, and Minecraft. I think the Webkinz era was by far the best gaming era.
Playing Webkinz 15 years later is kind of disappointing. The game has not aged well at all. And since virtually nothing has changed aesthetically from a gameplay standpoint, I shouldn’t be surprised. But am still surprised, I mean, this game still uses comic sans as its font of choice. Why is it so lacking? Comic Sans is usually a sign of a good game, not a bad one! Wizard 101 proudly displayed its magnificent typeface and I love it. So what is wrong with Webkinz? I think it has a lot to do with time itself. It can be a cruel beast to all of us and Webkinz has aged worse than Super Mario 64. It is a great game anyway.
The presentation of Webkinz to the new generations is laughable! Character illustrations look like something from Go Anime, but I must admit just looking at the Cocker Spaniel make me so nostalgic still. I don’t mind the drawing of the characters themselves. For some reason the cow and teacher get up looks attractive!
But lets us dig in, let's look at the history of Webkinz. The background history of Webkinz will amaze you, maybe you will fall in love with them 15 years down the line.
The Background history of Webkinz and why they were loved back in the early 2000s.
Honestly, Webkinz remains among the few sensations of the 2000s that are still here with us decades later. Webkinz were basically stuffed animals that had an online equivalent of the game called the Webkinz World.
Its genesis dates back to April 29, 2005, when the Canadian toy company released It. The company was called Ganz. These were standard plush toys; however, each Webkinz had a code on the tag that unlocks their virtual pet on the Webkinz World website. To take full advantage of Webkinz World, the code allows you to buy a virtual pet that you can care for online.
There are multiple versions of Webkinz, such as Lil’Kinz which are smaller, cheaper versions of Webkinz which was the signature collection that was of high quality and a bit expensive. There was also Jr. Webkinz for the kids aged three to six years old. Initially, these plush toys were available for sale only in America and Canada, but those who do not live in those locations can acquire a virtual toy instead. Wired reported back then that the number of active accounts created was over one million in 2006. Its first commercial on TV was aired in 2011. A child-friendly Webkinz X was released in 2015, which made it easier for youngsters to join.
Towards the end of 2020, Webkinz made changes to its logo to include babies and began transforming to a three-dimensional version, and adopted more interactive features.
The different types of Webkinz.
Webkinz came in different types including pets, wild animals, mythical creatures, and some made-up stuffed creatures. All Webkinz pets have hidden codes that can be accessed at www.webkinz.com that will grant access to an island of unlimited items and unique powers.
Just like the Birthstone toys, every month saw the release of a Zodiac pet. CandyKinz was lauched in 2011. Rockerz Pets had been released in June 2012. IN 2019, Ganz announced that no new Plush pets would be released from that time. But you could still buy virtual pets, make accounts online. Ganz confirmed that the site would still be online and will function as usual.
How do you play the Webkinz game?
The user does not have access to the Whole Webkinz World without the code but can create a free account. Ganz announced on January 19th, 2011 that Webkinz accounts will not expire anymore, which means that users will not have to buy renew membership every year. However, certain games, furniture, and other features in the free account are restricted. Kids with active accounts on the site would check online occasionally to check on the status of their pets.
The Ganz Webkinz World is an immersive online play space with its own economy. The user earns money called KinzCash by adopting new pets, playing online games, answering general knowledge question, and performing everyday activities such as clicking “I love my Webkinz!”, spinning the Wheel of WOW, playing Wishing well 2, or completing jobs (minigames) every after eight hours.
Every day, there is a Game of the Day that can be played for bonus KinzCash, and other bonuses are available every hour, full days on weekends. With each Webkinz toy purchased, more KinzCash, rooms, and objects are added to the user’s account.
There are also several rare or exclusive pieces in the online world. Some of these products can only be obtained by forming a relationship with the Curio Shop owner, while others can only be gotten after registering other Webkinz accessories bought in the real world.
Every pet receives a unique item and food that is only available to them. In addition, at the beginning of each month, a pet of the month would be announced. If anyone registers the announced pet during that month, they will receive additional exclusive pieces.
Most of the tasks in Webkinz World require you to collect objects. Recipes, for example, are made available to players via cookbooks or television shows such as The Secret Chef. “Gems can be mined once a day at the Curio Shop, with a complete range of gems transforming into the Webkinz Crown of Wonder and allowing you to purchase unique pieces. Alyssa’s Star Challenge, a related application, involves users clicking on colored stars to locate useful stars.
Top 15 Features that made Webkinz the best online game of the 2000s.
Some of the unique features that made Webkinz stand out from the rest of the games back then included:
- The opportunity to make shows at the Webkinz studio and compete for a spot on Webkinz TV.
- Investing in a swimming pool, trampoline, and treadmill so that Webkinz can improve their fitness.
- Ability to send gifts to friends and relatives on a peer-to-peer network.
- Ability to invite a friend over to your home, where users can talk, chat and play games.
- Participating in hourly events where you would win awards, KinzCash, coupons among other items.
- Animal grooming, cleaning, and bathing.
- Cooking and baking games in which users must mix random foods to solve hidden formulas and recipes published by the platform.
- Organizing a crowd, welcoming friends, playing games, and handing out loot bags ( a Party Pack costs between 750 and 1000 KinzCash).
- Playing different games, such as gem mining.
- Objects may be traded with other teams.
- Exclusive virtual books.
- Enrolling one’s virtual pet in training or “The Kinzville Academy”, where they can learn and build skills that will enable them to participate in tournaments.
- Pet’s homes should be decorated, furniture can be bought from the Webkinz World’s W-shop.
- Interacting with other players via the Webkinz Clubhouse, where they can play games like “Link’d” (Connect four), checkers, and many more.
- Going clothes shopping with your cat! This one is the one I loved most.
In addition, the Studio is sometimes available in the Curio Shop for less than 1000 KinzCash.
How the Webkinz Membership was structured.
When a pet is registered or adopted at Webkinz.com, it grants or renews an account’s full membership features for one year. When a pet’s membership expires, the account becomes a free account, and the opportunity to play certain games, purchase certain goods, and do other things in the world is lost. A player can however renew their account at any time.
The deluxe membership is an upgrade to a standard membership that is available at the Ganz eStore. Which is a premium membership with several features, rewards, games, and competitions not available to standard accounts. Deluxe members will also earn free Webkinz eStore points at the time of purchase and at the start of each month for the duration of their Deluxe Membership.
If you choose to register an account at Webkinz.com without a pet code, you can choose from 9 Ganz eStore Pets. There are many restrictions on free accounts that make certain challenges and activities difficult. At any time, free accounts can be upgraded to standard or Deluxe membership.
Other toys that can be used in the Webkinz world.
Ganz has created other toys that can be used on Webkinz World in addition to the Webkinz, Lil’ Kinz, Signature, and Rockerz Pets. Therese are know as W-Plus objects, and each W-Plus item comes with a hidden code that can be used in Webkinz World’s Code Shop. These codes unlock products for Webkinz Pets such as new room themes, pet clothes, KinzCash, and other prizes.
The W Plus.
Here are some of the items that you could find in W-plus items Ganz:
- Somebody spray and lip gloss – that unlocked a Glam Boutique style piece of furniture.
- Clothing for Webkinz stuffed animal – unlocks the KinzStyle pack, which allows entry to the KinzStyle Shop. The KinzStyle shop sells clothing that is not available anywhere else.
- Magic Mire and Fairy Falls are accessible through Charms.
- Bookmarks – unlocks a Book Bag, which allows the user to choose one free book from Webkinz World.
- Mousepads – unlocks an exclusive Mouse Pad Art Print, a mouse pad hanging poster.
- School supplies unlock limited-edition KinzPost stationary.
- Pet Carriers – allows the consumer to build a one-of-a-kind wardrobe from four options.
- Figurines – unlocks a virtual figurine and one-of-a-kind prize (differs by figurine); also unlocks a display case that can accommodate all of the figurines.
- Wacky Zingoz Plush toy – unlocks Wacky Zingoz Extreme, which is an exclusive version of Wacky Zingoz.
- Binders for Webkinz Trading cards – Unlocks two unique podiums for keeping the virtual binders.
There are four Webkinz Trading Cards series, two of which can be used virtually to play the challenge game. The cards are sold in booster packs of five playing cards and one code card. There is also the possibility of receiving special cards, such as free pet codes, in these packs. Curio Shop Curiosities and Webkinz Doodlez are also available in Series 1.
Instead, there is At Paw level and W-Tales snapshots in Series 2. The special cards are made of foil. For series 1, there are 80 base cards, 12 challenge, 8 Curio Shop Curiosities, 8 Webkinz Doodlez. There are 85 base cards in Series 2, 15 challenges, 8 At Paw levels, and 8 W-Tales Snapshots.
These cards are also W-Plus pieces, with 2-5 codes on each. Each car has one code that unlocks a virtual pack of Trading Cards, while the other 1 -4 will unlock rewards such as rare and exclusive themes or coupons.
Series 3 introduced a new format that included only one feature code per pack and no code for a virtual pack. The packs also featured stickers and a chance to win the Magical Retriever, a previously unheard of Pet. Ganz has also stated that each series 3 code grants users access to an object that they cannot find anywhere else in Webkinz World. Series 4 has also been published, and the Mystical Panda has replaced the Magical Retriever as the prize Pet.
Inside the Ganz store.
The Ganz Store is aimed at the site's older demographic, and it can be used to buy virtual pets, furniture, and other things with real money. While plush Webkinz and Lil’ Kinz are only available in America and Canada, international residents can buy virtual pets from the Ganz eStore. Secret codes associated with particular pets can be used in the same way as secret codes associated with stuffed pets.
Also, deluxe members are offered free points at Ganz eStore monthly.
How about the Webkinz Games?
Webkinz World has a variety of games where kids could play and receive KinzCash. The website also offers a variety of online games that users can play against their friends or anyone else who wants to play. Some games are strictly reserved for a higher tier of users, known as the Deluxe members.
The dark side of Webkinz.
Concerns have been posted about the use and overuse of toys by children. Parents may be concerned that their kids will be addicted to the game. Back then, concerns were raised by some parents about the website’s online chat system. The KinzChat system had a number of security measures in place, including limits on who can send messages.
Furthermore, users cannot type but can choose from a list of phrases. There were also concerns about toys being a nuisance in school which resulted in them being removed from the school grounds.
There were also some concerns when the previously free platform began showing ads initially only for their own additional game-related items, but now also for movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Bee film.
Members are also allowed to choose to block adverts and ads pages that are not funded or associated with Webkinz or Ganz. However, once this option is enabled, it cannot be modified until after 30 days.
Malware, according to rumors back then, was present on the site. It was said that there was a character that would kill Webkinz on the site, allegedly introduced by a disappointed employee or a rival business. Webkinz.com denied the allegations.
About The 2020 Webkinz Hack.
Around April last year, a hacker obtained access to nearly 23 million player’s log-in details, which were later leaked online. Ganz, later on, improved their encryption and mandated that all users reset their passwords.
Additionally, there have previously been issues with linking to the Webkinz World Website. These range from technical issues with user’s web browsers to uncorporative customer services, to programming concerns with the Webkinz World website.
Changes were done on the Webkinz website that left many users dissatisfied, as newly added features often restrict access to a small fraction (like 1%) of users, and programming errors often minimize the capacity of the remainder of the site to function well.
Why Webkinz packs a very strong Nostalgic feeling
This was so much fun, so I don't even care if this doesn't get views LOL If you watched, hope you enjoyed!!! TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN I POST...
Earlier today, I spent over two hours on Webkinz.com. Surprisingly, my account was still active! At least they kept their word. As I signed in, the GUI had changed drastically, but one thing that remained the same was my dinosaur, Trike. He was still hanging on there. It is a good thing that Webkinz does no delete your account after a year like they used to do some time back, instead, they only restrict your access to certain functions. The trike had oversized red sunglasses, which were identical to the sunglasses I used to wear to the beach one weekend back then.
For sure, my taste has not changed much even after a decade and a half of not visiting Webkinz.com. I discovered that there are some new pets with their names having variations on SugarSea and Bubblenut.
I even got a chance to watch the animated movies i had created back then in the Webkinz Theater. The movies like Kinz Super Showdown, Smile, Plush Dog, and Hannah Montana Kinz were not Academy Award winners, but they rocked back then! Evidently, the words spoken by the characters had not been predetermined by any Ganz executive; they had been typed into the machine by myself while still in elementary school, and therefore they reflected my quirks, speech habits, and strange babytoothed humor. I laughed hard at myself when I remembered how many hours I had spent using that one feature of the website not knowing that the young me would be pleased to see the future me writing and directing movies as a job!
Is Webkinz now a wasteland? Without a doubt, it is perplexing and overrun with pathetic money-making promotions nowadays. At the moment, much of what you can do on the web is now futile. However, Webkinz’s aspect of free play, coupled with nostalgia, makes for a strong time killer and it resurrects the feeling of goofiness and creativity that is never lost.
I think Webkinz would have benefited from updating its animations so everything didn’t look so stiff. But what can I expect from a 15-year-old project that is pretty much faded away? It would be nice if the voice were improved.
But all the same, Webkinz made our day back then. It will be long till I log in again, but my experience with Trike today was worth the login.
What do you remember about Webkinz? Who was your favorite character?