Neopets was a childhood favourite of many growing up in the early 2000s. It was one of the earliest examples of a website made solely for children with mini-games, online clubs and the ability to raise your own virtual pets being highlights of Neopets’ many activities. While it certainly had rivals in the online space, Neopets became a pop culture phenomenon and enjoyed nearly a decade of prosperity before its user base aged out of it. At one point, it was so popular McDonald’s featured plush Neopets characters in its Happy Meals worldwide. In 2020, it’s a very different website — and with the imminent death of Flash Player, it could also be facing a major shut down.
In July 2017, Adobe announced the planned obsolescence of Flash Player, the widely-adopted media platform used in many online animations and interactive games. It’s the sole way Neopets runs its major activities, with the vast amount of the website’s content being Flash-based.
In 2020, it was confirmed Adobe would end support for the platform and shut it down completely on December 31, 2020. This process has been ongoing since the original announcement, with many web browsers now requiring an additional check for enabling Flash Player. A new Windows update is also currently purging Flash Player from Windows machines, pushing up the date for its swansong.
Without Flash Player, the majority of Neopets’ activities will disappear.
In July 2019, the Neopets Twitter account confirmed the website would migrate over to HTML at the conclusion of 2020, ahead of Flash Player’s demise. As of October 29, two months before scheduled shut down, Neopets is still operating on a Flash Player base.
Q2: "will Neopets be converted to HTML before Flash loses support in 2020" A: YES! We're currently in the process of moving everything over, those at #SDCC were able to see a small preview of what that will look like. 1/2…
— neopets (@Neopets) July 21, 2019
Currently, players need to manually switch Flash on via their web browser to access basic functionality in Neopets. Accessing the map requires Flash Player. Playing mini-games (one of the sole ways Neopets users earn currency) also requires the Flash browser toggle to be manually switched on. As of writing, Neopets is still largely Flash Player-dependent, and it’s raising questions about the website’s future viability.
Update: 30/10 9:37 a.m. AEDT
Despite wide fan speculation current owners NetDragon don’t have access to the website’s original code (and therefore can’t make significant changes to the website), this apparently isn’t the case. A Neopets spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo Australia this speculation is not true.
While Flash Player’s removal is a major obstacle for the website and will mean some games going offline, there are plans to bring the website into 2021.
Gizmodo Australia reached out to the Neopets team to understand how the website will deal with the transition to HTML, and whether Flash going away will remove the website’s capabilities in 2021. While they confirmed developers are working to revamp the site tirelessly, it’s looking likely major Flash elements of Neopets will be unplayable after the December 31, 2020 cut-off date.
“We will continue to revamp the site through 2021 to convert and add new content into the new mobile friendly template … Given the amount of content existing on Neopets, not everything will be migrated over by 2020 but we prioritised the features that users love the most,” a Neopets spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia via email.
“Customisation and mini games are two of our biggest priorities and exist in the [mobile-friendly, HTML5-based] beta today. Since there are hundreds of games currently, those will continue to be ported over time. Throughout the process, the game will still be completely playable and fun!”
Going forward, the team will continue working on updates with more content planned for 2021. New mobile-friendly features are currently being worked on including new mini-games, and the team also recently announced a Neopets animated series that should kick off a new generation of Neopets merchandise (including plushes, thankfully).
While there’ll be a teething period between the end of Flash Player support and the new content being rolled out in 2021, it looks like Neopets is set for a bigger and better 2021 than previously thought.
Long live Neopets. We hope you never leave us.
This article has been updated since its original publication.