Neopets is a mobile game that promotes itself as a virtual pet community that is open to people of all ages, races, genders, and social statuses. Neopets recently announced a new merchandise licensing program in partnership with Hot Topic, What’s Your Passion Jewelry, Geekify, H3 apparel and Squip. The new line of merchandise includes T-shirts, blankets, pins, joggers, jewelry and more. On certain purchases, buyers can get codes which tie into the Neopets gaming experience. The brand is also proud to announce the introduction of a unique fan artist partnership program which hires artists from all over the world to create designs and art for licensees and new merchandise. The program debuted in 2020 with two artists but it will be expanding in 2021.
Brand Manager Stephanie Lord makes community input a staple of her job. For example, in June, Neopets launched on mobile and Stephanie diligently collected feedback from the community before the mobile version went live. Although the brand started out being virtual, it has spawned a beloved line of merchandise including stitch-able fabric badges, pins, and incredibly soft and vibrantly colored blankets depicting cute characters and scenes from the series. Several items have been designed by fans/users of the game which helps to make those associated with the brand feel even more included and valued.
Stephanie Lord recently discussed her experiences working with Neopets and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in games and how did you get involved with Neopets?
Stephanie Lord (SL): Well, I loved games growing up, as most kids do. Then I had family members that worked in the industry which gave me that initial inside look on how games are made. I loved it from the beginning! Being able to create something, in even the smallest way, that other people can enjoy was amazing. I remember the first thing I did that was public when starting work at this company was write a draft for the ‘Whats New’ section in the app store for one of our other products. To be able to contribute in even that small way was the most exciting thing to me. Then I got an opportunity to move over to Neopets and immediately jumped on it, something with Neopets always just clicked with me. I loved the game and the brand, I loved it more as an adult than I did as a kid even. Once I was older and started working on it, I was able to really understand the lore and depth of it entirely and just connected with it. Ever since I started on it, it’s just felt right and I’ve never looked back.
MM: What is it about this brand/series that you like most?
SL: This is a hard one, there’s a lot I love about this brand and I think the more I dove into it the more I found. I think the aspect of the brand I like the most is how it’s truly a world of its own. I have talked a lot in the past about how Neopets is an escape for a lot of people and the same goes for me. Everyone needs something they can lean on during stressful times, some find it in yoga or reading and some find it in Neopets. Whether you find peace at the stock market, chatting with other users, dressing up your Neopet or just reading the lore and history of the brand. You can even write your own stories of your Neopets if you want. Whatever it is you want to dive into, Neopets has so much depth that you truly can get lost in the world and that is a rare and special thing to be able to create.
MM: Why did you decide to make user input such a staple of this brand?
SL: Honestly, I don’t know how we could not. Neopets has been through a lot of changes in its 20 years, the art styles, owners, you name it but what hasn’t changed is the loyal userbase. They truly love this brand and when you have a group like that, that has been devoted for 10, 15, even 20 years you listen to them! They want this brand to succeed as much as we do so how could you not want to make them apart of it?
MM: When and why did you decide to create physical items inspired by this virtual brand? Expand on the merchandise program more!
SL: As we looked at the brand the past couple of years and really decided the direction we wanted to go moving forward, merchandise seemed like one of those no brainers. Not only is it something our current users have asked for over the years but as we became more present at Comic Con and interacted with our fans who no longer even play the site, it was something they expressed a ton of interest in as well.
Neopets is an extremely special brand and one that sticks with people, even those who haven’t heard the name in years. Every time I talk to someone that used to play, I see the same excitement and fondness because Neopets is truly a memorable experience and those feelings don’t go away. So, while our merchandise is definitely for our amazing current userbase, it is also for all of those who have played for the last 20 years to remind them of all the good times they had playing Neopets.
We don’t see this brand going anywhere, we have some exciting plans for the future and hope all our fans of the last 20 years will join us along the way.
MM: How did you decide what kinds of items to produce, such as the very soft and double-sided blankets?
SL: We try to create items we think our fans would enjoy. Not just expensive collectibles but everyday household items as well. Similar to the site, we want to have a wide array so that there is something for everyone.
MM: How many products have fans designed and what are some of the most memorable? I know you have an artist program, tell me more!
SL: We have had some really great fan jewelry and T-shirt designs so far. However, we’re most looking forward to our upcoming merch store that will feature a special section that has numerous stylized designs with artist credit!
MM: How do these new items differ from the ones that will be produced via the partnerships you’ve recently launched with Hot Topic, Squip, and more? What can fans look forward to in 2021?
SL: We have fan-designed pieces in some different product lines we’ve released. We’re also working to expand those partnerships with several new designs coming out in 2021 that we are really looking forward to sharing with the fanbase! We also have some entirely new partnerships that will build out our artist program that we will be announcing soon.
MM: What has been some of the coolest feedback you’ve gotten about Neopets?
SL: Definitely hearing user stories of Neopets and what it has done for them throughout their lives. To hear about how this brand has touched people’s lives is always amazing. There is no doubt Neopets comes with its challenges, as any 20-year-old site would, but hearing what our site and the brand as a whole has done for people is the biggest motivator there is to make the best products that we can for them. Not only for the ones that Neopets has already helped but for all the people that it will continue to inspire.
MM: Are you currently working on any other initiatives that you’re especially excited about and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
SL: Absolutely, we have a lot of projects on the horizon that we’re excited to roll out. Along with some new merch and our continual product updates, we also have some exciting projects that’s have yet to be announced that we’re looking forward to introducing to the community in 2021.
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To learn more, visit the official website of Neopets: www.neopets.com
Also read: https://kidskintha.com/digital-storytelling-app/
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