Webkinz are toy stuffed animals that have a playable online counterpart in "Webkinz World." Webkinz were originally released by the Canadian toy company Ganz on April 29, 2005. The toys are similar to many other small plush toys; however, each Webkinz toy has an attached tag with a unique "Secret Code" printed on it that allows you to play with your pet in the "Webkinz World" website. On Webkinz World, the Secret Code allows the user to own a virtual version of the pet for online play. Lil' Kinz are smaller, less expensive versions of Webkinz, while the Signature collection are larger and slightly more expensive. Sales of plush Webkinz toys are limited to the United States and Canada, but international users can buy virtual pets from the online eStore. In 2006, Webkinz had one million online accounts, and according to one estimate published in Wired they took in $100 million. In 2011, Webkinz made its first commercial on TV.
There are many types of Webkinz: regular pets, wild animals, mythical creatures and some made up, like the Gingerbread Puppy. Along with the regular Webkinz toys, there are also smaller, less expensive versions called Lil' Kinz as well as larger, slightly more expensive versions in the Signature collection launched in early 2009. The Signature collection later ended in December, 2013. In 2009, Birthstone pets were released. One new birthstone pet was released for every month. In April 2010, Ganz replaced the Birthstone pets with the Zodiac Pets and the Zodiac theme. Again, one Zodiac pet will be released every month along with its constellation.
Each Webkinz stuffed animal and Webkinz accessory comes with an 8-character code. By registering this code on the Webkinz website, the customer "adopts" this pet in the virtual Webkinz World. Without the Secret Code, the user will not get access to the full Webkinz world, but they can create a free account. On January 19, 2011, Ganz announced that Webkinz World accounts would no longer expire, meaning users would not have to buy a new pet each year to renew their account, but then brought that back into Webkinz in 2012.
The Webkinz World is an online play area with its own economy completely controlled by Ganz. The user receives money (called KinzCash) by adopting new pets, playing online games, answering general knowledge questions, and through daily activities like clicking "I love my Webkinz!", spinning the Wheel of WOW, playing Wishing Well 2, or completing jobs (minigames) available once every 8 hours. Each day, there is a Game of the Day which can be played for bonus KinzCash, and other bonuses are available each hour, full days on weekends and afternoons only on weekdays. With each Webkinz toy purchased, more money, rooms, and items are added to the user's account.
The online world also contains many rare or exclusive items. Some of these items require developing a friendship with the Curio Shop owner to purchase, while others are obtained by registering other Webkinz accessories purchased in the real world. Each type of pet gets a special food available exclusively for them. Also, a Pet of the Month is announced at the beginning of each month. If a person registers the announced pet in that month, they will receive other exclusive items.
Many of the tasks in Webkinz World involve collecting items. For example, recipes are released for the players through cookbooks or one of the TV Shows called The Secret Chef. "Gems" can be mined once a day at the Curio Shop, with a full set of gems being turned into the Webkinz Crown of Wonder and buy exclusive items. A similar feature, called Alyssa's Star Hunt, involves users clicking on colored stars to find valuable stars.
Other features of Webkinz include:
- The ability to create shows with the Webkinz Studio, and enter to be chosen to appear on the Webkinz television.
- Buying a swimming pool, where Webkinz can swim around to improve their health.
- Sending gifts or letters to friends on a peer-to-peer network.
- Invite a friend over to your house, where you can chat and interact with some board games and items.
- Participate in the hourly events, which can earn you prizes, KinzCash, and coupons, among other things.
- Brushing your pets teeth, hair, washing paws/feathers/feet etc., bathing.
- Setting up a party, inviting guests, playing games and giving out loot bags. (a party pack costs 750 to 1000 KinzCash)
- The Webkinz Studio generally costs 1000 KinzCash in the W Shop.
- There are currently 18 characters and 9 sets.
- In 2008, a very strict dictionary was added to secure the words used in the studio.
- In March 2010, webkinz announced that the Studio had been "enhanced" with more features, including "slide transitions", the "who speaks first" option, and character entrances and exits.
- Note: The Studio can be found in the Curio Shop on a rare basis for less than 1000 KinzCash.
When a pet is registered at webkinz.com (or "adopted"), it gives or renews an account's full membership features for one year. When membership of a pet expires, the account becomes a retired account and some features become unavailable. Some of the limitations of free accounts are not present on retired accounts, but several challenges are still impossible without an active account.
There is also an upgrade to regular memberships called the Deluxe membership which is available at the Ganz eStore. This is a premium membership with many features, benefits, games, and prizes to which regular accounts do not have access. Deluxe members also receive free Webkinz eStore points at the time of purchase and at the beginning of each month afterwards for the extent of the Deluxe membership. Ganz tends to promote Deluxe memberships and this is seen as consumerism. Ganz's promotion of this feature has been criticized by parents who do not want to purchase Deluxe memberships for their children.
If one wants to register an account at webkinz.com without a pet code, it used to be they can select either a dog or a cat as their initial pet but Ganz changed it so you get to pick from 9 Ganz Estore pets. Several limitations exist on free accounts that make many challenges and activities impossible. Free accounts can be upgraded to regular memberships or Deluxe memberships at any time.
W-Plus & trading cards
Aside from the Webkinz, Lil' Kinz and Signature pets, Ganz also has made other toys that can be used on Webkinz World. These are called W-Plus items, and all W-Plus items come with a secret code that can be used in the Code Shop in Webkinz World. These codes unlock items for the Webkinz pets, like new room themes, clothing for pets, kinzcash, and other prizes.
These are all of the W-Plus items Ganz has released:
- Body spray and lip glossâ"unlocks a piece of furniture for the Salon theme
- Clothing for the Webkinz stuffed toysâ"unlocks KinzStyle bag, which can be used to access the KinzStyle shop. The KinzStyle shop contains clothing that can't be found anywhere else.
- Charmsâ"gives access to Charm Forest, an area of Webkinz World. The more charms are collected, the more prizes a user can get from the Charm Forest.
- Bookmarksâ"unlocks a Book Bag, allowing the user to choose one free book in Webkinz World.
- Mouse padsâ"unlocks an exclusive Mouse Pad Art Print, a hanging poster of the mousepad.
- School suppliesâ"unlocks exclusive KinzPost stationary.
- Pet carriersâ"allows user to assemble an exclusive wardrobe from four choices.
- Figurinesâ"unlocks a virtual figurine and a unique prize (varies by figurine); also unlocks a display case that can be used to hold all the figurines.
- Wacky Zingoz plush toyâ"gives access to Wacky Zingoz Extreme, an exclusive version of the game Wacky Zingoz (see List of Webkinz games)
- Webkinz Trading Card bindersâ"unlocks two exclusive podiums to hold the virtual binders.
There are four series of Webkinz Trading Cards, of which two can be used (in virtual form) to play the challenge game. The cards come in booster packs, with 5 playing cards and a code card in each pack. In these packs there are also chances of getting special cards as well, like free pet codes. In series one you can also get Curio Shop Curiosities and Webkinz Doodlez. In series two there is At Paw Level and W-Tales Snapshots instead. These special cards are foil. For series one 80 base cards have been released, 12 challenges, 8 Curio Shop Curiosities and 8 Webkinz Doodlez. In series two there are 85 base cards, 15 challenges, 8 At Paw Levels and 8 W-Tales Snapshots. The cards are also W-Plus items, and they each come with 2-5 codes. 1 code on each card is for a virtual pack of trading cards, while the other 1-4 can unlock prizes like rare and exclusive themes or coupons. Series 3 changed the format, with only ONE feature code per pack, and no code for a virtual pack. The packs also included stickers and a chance to win a previously unheard-of pet, the Magical Retriever. Also, Ganz has said that each Series 3 code gives you an item you cannot find anywhere else in Webkinz World. Series 4 has also been released, and the prize pet, the Mystical Panda, replaces the Magical Retriever.
Sales of plush Webkinz and Lil'kinz are limited to the United States and Canada, however virtual pets can be purchased from the Ganz eStore by international residents. Secret Codes issued in conjunction with virtual pets can be used the same way as Secret Codes attached to plush pets.
Deluxe members get free Ganz eStore points every month.
Webkinz World has many games in which players can play to earn money (called KinzCash). The website also has a wide range of multiplayer games for users to play against their friends, and anyone else who wants to play at the time. There are some games specifically reserved for a premium tier of users, called Deluxe Membership.
To maintain long-term access to an account, the user must continue to purchase additional stuffed toys with a new secret code. Failure to comply within 14 days of the end of the membership period will result in the account becoming a free account. All memberships are property of the individual who registered the secret code and may not be used by more than one user or transferred to another user.
Each time a pet is redeemed, 1-year of service is added to the expiration date.
Concerns have been raised about children's use and overuse of the toys. Some worry that children will become addicted to the game. Some parents have voiced concerns about the website's online chat system. The KinzChat chat system has various safety precautions, with restrictions on who can send messages. Additionally, users cannot type, but can choose phrases to say from a list. Concerns have also been raised about the toys being a distraction in school, occasionally resulting in them being banned from school grounds. Concerns were also raised when the once advertisement-free site started displaying advertisements, previously only for their own additional game-related products, but now also for movies, such as "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Bee Movie". There is an option that members can use to block ads that promote sites not sponsored by or affiliated with Webkinz or Ganz. However, if enabled, this option can not be changed until 30 days have passed. Rumors have circulated that malware is present. In 2007 rumors spread about a character that would kill Webkinz on the site, supposedly inserted by a disgruntled employee or a rival site. These claims were dismissed by Webkinz.
Another area of parental concern is that there are many problems with connecting to the Webkinz World site. These range from technical problems with customer's internet browsers and unresponsive customer service to programming problems at the Webkinz World site. Changes made to the Webkinz World site have resulted in many disappointed users as newly introduced features often limit access to a small fraction (less than 1%) of users and programming errors often reduce the ability of the remainder of the site to function at prior levels.
- Webkinz official website
- Webkinz eStore