Eric Johnson

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Disney Brings Full Club Penguin Game to iPad, With Apple’s Blessing for Subscription Model

Here’s one from the “well, that was inevitable” file: The full version of Disney’s MMO-for-kids Club Penguin has made the leap to mobile. And it’s chipping away at a small barrier on Apple’s App Store, to boot.

The game is one of the first that Apple has okayed to use recurring subscription payments, rather than paid downloads or nonrecurring in-app purchases. But Club Penguin boss Chris Heatherly is quick to assert that it shares a lot of DNA with non-game apps that already allow subscriptions.

“It’s not a game,” Heatherly said in an interview. “It’s a kids’ social network in the guise of a game.”

As Heatherly said when I interviewed him back in April, it’s not the same sort of animal as Facebook, however. At that time, he said that the young audience for the game — primarily, 8-to-12-year-olds — is the differentiating factor:

We don’t really market ourselves against Facebook, but we are a kids’ social network. Kids socialize around play, while adults socialize around chat, text and photos … I like Facebook, my friends are on Facebook, but I have no particular affection for Facebook as a place. I use it as a tool. For kids, Club Penguin is their alter ego. They’ve invested into a persona there.

Behind the scenes, the iPad launch also marks a big change in the technology that powers Club Penguin. For years, the game has only run on Adobe Flash, which is why it took so long to reach the tablet crowd, but a newly developed cross-platform client, internally called CPNext, works natively both in Flash and on mobile, Heatherly said.

The game’s subscriptions cost $7.95 per month, with discounts for three-month and six-month plans. Heatherly declined to share active user numbers, but said 220 million players have registered to date, up from 200 million in April.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work