“Our universe is crumbling around us…” a Reddit member said this morning on r/ClubPenguinRewritten, detailing how the fan-made, likely illegal copy of Club Penguin was decreasing in front of their eyes. As portions of the virtual world vanished in real-time, gamers wrote their final, panicked messages through their colourful penguin avatars, rumours spread among players, speculating about a legal dispute with Disney and an inquiry by the City of London Police.
A Discord server for the game had over 140,000 users until today when all messages on the Discord vanished. The City of London police has confiscated the game, according to the game’s website.
Club Penguin, the children’s RPG that was my first introduction to online fandom, was acquired by Disney for $700 million in 2007. Even as a youngster with little prior knowledge of computer sector mergers, the transaction felt ominous (at least my friends thought so on the Miniclip forums, where I fraudulently claimed to be 13). But, after 200 million players, those of us who were ardent lovers of virtual sledging games and dance parties became tired of it, and the game was shut down due to a lack of interest in 2017. The surviving players were shuffled to a new mobile game called Club Penguin Island, although it barely lasted a year.
But there have always been remakes out there for nostalgic grownups to relive their days of collecting puffles, dancing in the pizza shop, and speed-running prohibitions since the end of Club Penguin – when the iceberg eventually toppled in a weirdly poignant moment.
The fan-made replica of Club Penguin has remained popular while Meta strives frantically to convince people to play “Horizon Worlds” and accept its depiction of the metaverse. In April 2020, even indie artist Soccer Mommy, who had opened for a Bernie Sanders rally, performed in Club Penguin Rewritten.
Only one message remains on the Discord, which was submitted by an admin early this morning:
The admin stated, “CPRewritten is closing down effective immediately owing to a complete request by Disney.” “We voluntarily gave the police control of the website so that they could continue their copyright investigation.”
TechCrunch contacted the City of London Police and Disney to confirm these reports but did not get a response before publishing.
This is not the first time Disney has gone to court for a trademark it no longer uses. According to the BBC, Disney will shut down “Club Penguin Online,” a replica of the game that gained over a million new players during the outbreak, in 2020. The site was allegedly riddled with racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and pornographic remarks, and one of the site’s administrators was detained on suspicion of doing so.
The game outlawed harassing and vulgar or prejudiced language, according to Club Penguin Rewritten’s legal disclaimer on its website, which was updated in April 2020 and obtained via the Wayback Machine. Disney probably wanted to shut down Club Penguin Rewritten because it made money through advertisements. However, according to an old tweet from 2017, Club Penguin Rewritten utilised ad money to pay for web servers before donating the remainder. It is unknown how long this policy was in effect. In a Reddit post, several users mentioned that the game had just included a feature that enabled players to watch a commercial in return for an in-game prize, which might have tripped Mickey Mouse’s warning bells.