The Poptropica Puzzle
The one question I ask most often about the internet is the following: why do people make such great stuff and then give it away for free?
The website Poptropica is a perfect example. Poptropica is a virtual online world in which children take part in adventures that require creativity, persistence, logic, and coordination to solve. If you have kids aged 6 to 12, it is definitely worth taking a look.
Not only is it fun for kids, but it is fun for adults too (at least this adult), and it is a great learning tool.
The unfortunate downside of the website is that addiction is a probable outcome. The last time I saw my son Nicholas so lost to the world was right before the intervention that culminated in us sending him to Club Penguin Anonymous.
I have been contributing to his downward spiral this time. Yesterday I was lying in bed half-awake, when I suddenly came up with a hypothesis as to how to beat Sir Rebral, who had confounded Nick for days on Poptropica. I woke Nick up to tell him. Happily, my conjecture proved correct.
The thing that I simply cannot understand about Poptropica is why it exists. Webkinz and Club Penguin both have revenue-generating business models. Poptropica is simply free — no subscription fees, no ads, no nothing that generates any money. On the Poptrica F.A.Q., it says that it was created by Family Education Network, a division of Pearson. That seems like a group of folks who might like to get paid for their hard work. So can anyone explain to me why Poptropica exists?
Just today, my daughter Amanda became the first kid in the family to finish all the available adventures. Her sense of triumph was powerful, but short-lived. Just seconds after putting the final jewel into the statue of Nabooti, she turned to me forlorn and asked, “Now that I finished Poptropica, what am I going to do?”
I didn’t have a good answer for her.