Club Penguin co-founder promises that Disney's social networking site won't become like Habbo Hotel.
With the words "we are not Habbo Hotel" writ in - metaphorical - letters of fire upon his forehead, Club Penguin co-founder Lane Merrifield announced a new safety awareness advertising campaign during a keynote speech at the Children's Media Conference in Sheffield, UK. Merrifield - currently Disney Online Studios' executive VP - said that the campaign would cost £3 million (approximately $4.5 million), and while Habbo Hotel was never mentioned by name, recent events were almost certainly in Merrifield's mind when he made the announcement.
"From the very start," said Merrifield, "our vision for Club Penguin was to create a safe place for my kids and their friends to play online," adding that this philosophy hasn't changed since Disney's acquisition of the Club for $350 million back in 2007. Club Penguin's current safety campaign is aimed at children in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and will involve advertisements in both the real and virtual worlds. According to Merrifield, this is all aimed at helping children become "responsible digital citizens."
Habbo Hotel's troubles saw the parent company lose major investors, and its gift cards were pulled from store shelves. Club Penguin has users in 190 countries, and is one of the largest child-centric social networking sites in the world. Just to remain competitive in the market, virtual worlds like Club Penguin need to demonstrate that they're being proactive on this issue. It's not just for the kids, but for their parents' peace of mind as well as avoiding negative attention from the scandal-driven news media. £3 million is positively cheap compared to the price Club Penguin would pay, if what happened to Habbo Hotel should happen to them.