Webkinz reigns with real life virtual pets
June 1, 2007
We can all probably recall having a doll which cries, giggles, and needs it’s diaper changed every now and then.
Most of us have also experienced the joys and sorrows of owning a pet. We know when our puppy sulks and looks a little melancholy its needs a bit of TLC. We play with it or stroke it to lift it’s spirits and take it to the pet doc when it’s feeling off colour.
For special occasions we might buy it a diamante collar, indulge it with a treat, or spruce up it’s room or toy collection.
Ganz, a private Canadian gift company has introduced a new dimension to pet care for children and adults, causing a craze with its Webkinz plush toys, whose phenomenal success has been compared to that of Beanie Babies.
But these toys are more than your average soft plush toy. These are hi-tech toys for the high-tech internet savvy Web 2.0 oriented pre-schooler and their parents.
The difference between a Webkinz toy and a beanie baby is that a Webkinz has a special code on it’s tag which enables their owner to log onto a website and register thier cows, dogs, hippos or horses with the webkinz world at http://www.webkinz.com.
The virtual pet adoption process is completed through the touch of a few keys, which literally brings these stuffed toy to life, at least on the computer screen.
Children in the online Webkinz world gain access to some fundamentals, like a food item, “welcome balloon”, a pad for their prized pet, a piece of furniture as well as “kinzcash” to spend on their pet’s needs.
Cybervets, pet accessories, fashion furnishings and educational resources are all at their disposal in order for them to spend to build their animal the ideal online home.
They can bathe them, feed them, play with and exercise with them, and they determine their needs via ‘happiness’, ‘health’ and ‘hunger’ meters which they monitor. They know when their animals become neglected, as their meters get too low as they soon become unwell.
The interactive games are intended to teach them information about science and responsibility in a fun and entertaining way.
Tamagotchi and Neopets may have been the first to release virtual pets, but the decision to produce real life plush toys to complement the wired counterparts have been the cause of their unprecedented success.
The marketing team’s successful formula blends online gaming communities, with a child’s need to nurture a soft toy and interact online.
Stores can’t keep up with the demand for Webkinz toys.
Just as with many internet applications, the Webkinz phenomenon has incited controversy as to whether children are properly balancing their time between their online webkinz duties, education and other extra curricular activities.
Maybe there is a lesson in there for Webkinz foster parents, for just as parents have to make sure they strike the right balance between the time kids spend in the online world and engaging in the real world, so too do children have to learn to multitask in their caregiving activities.
They can’t afford to neglect the offline welfare of their Kinz toys, and also have to make sure they provide them with comfortable surrounds, and give them fair playtime and attention.
Then of course there is still Rover the dog sitting on the sidelines playing second fiddle to both Kinzs…….
…..although there is always the possibility, which might have been discounted by parents, that these high tech kids will be more informed than their parents in how to care for their family pooch.