Webkinz cons kids into classism

Written By Sarah Gibson, Co-News Editor

I’m a stressed college kid, alright? I’ve been looking for ways to chill out at the end of a bad day. This semester, I had a friend recommend I log on to my old Webkinz account. So, that’s what I do to relax now. You can’t tell me there’s not something calming about the concept of an online stuffed animal universe.

However, I’ve noticed some changes to come to Webkinz since I last used my account, and I’m not impressed. Since I last logged off, Webkinz introduced lots of new content and roped off most of it on the website for users who pay for different types of premium memberships. Webkinz has introduced different kinds of advertising techniques, including pop-up ads for companies like Goldfish crackers and sidebar ads for something called eStore points. These eStore points are a type of currency in Webkinz that can only be bought with actual money. $5.00 is 5,000 points, $30.00 is 33,000 points, and the maximum amount you can buy is for $125.00, and it’s 175,000 points. 

While charging money for certain items in an online game isn’t new (et tu, Club Penguin?) I’ve never seen it done to this extent. You want to go shopping? Too bad half of the in-store products can’t be bought with Kinzcash, which Webkinz hands out like candy now that it has lost value in the wake of the introduction of things like eStore points, Full memberships, and Deluxe memberships. 

Yes, two kinds of special memberships. The first is Deluxe, which also costs real person money. The website says that for one month, it only costs a whole dollar… 

-for the first month. Every subsequent month, the renewed price is $5.99 per month. For some people, that’s not a lot of money. However, it’s still a sleezy thing to do by putting it in such small print, because you know they know kids won’t read it. However, if you want the real Webkinz experience, the Deluxe membership pretty much gives you access to everything that Webkinz has available. 

Are there other options? Yes! The Full Membership offers much less in the way of exclusive content for the user. How much is it? Just the price of one new Webkinz every year. It’s just a steady intake of the product you might be lucky to get in the first place. 

I might sound silly, but I don’t like what this website could be teaching children. I miss the Webkinz where even if you only had one pet, you were in it forever. You had a virtual family. Now, unless you are in the position to spend your money, you can’t play certain games, get certain jobs at the employment office, attend certain classes, take your animal on a virtual vacation, or buy the rug that would really tie your ‘Kinz’s room together. Is there not something subtly classist about this? There’s not any way for someone who doesn’t have money to get eStore points. There’s no exchange rate of Kinzcash for eStore points, and you can’t sell rare items for them. Children will be forced to ask their parents for money for Webkinz, which the parents may not have. 

I wouldn’t have these problems if I thought Ganz was a good company, but I don’t. I’d understand it even if they just had the ads, because sometimes those are necessary. But Ganz is not a good company, and what they’re doing is not rooted in necessity. If there’s a problem purchasing something online, and those online items somehow don’t make it to your account, Webkinz is not responsible, nor will they try to help you. 

What I think my point is, Webkinz is trying to con as many children out of as much money as possible while they’re at the targeted age demographic, and it honestly has ruined the magic of my online baby animals for me. Webkinz shuts you out until you’re willing to shell out enough money to be a part of the in crowd.