‘Club Penguin Rewritten’ allegedly shut down by Disney, website seized by London police – TechCrunch

“Our world is crumbling around us…” a Reddit user posted this morning on r/ClubPenguinRewrite, documenting how the fan-driven and likely illegal new version of Club Penguin was slowly fading before their eyes. Rumors swirled among gamers, speculating of a legal dispute with Disney and an investigation by the City of London Police as elements of the virtual world disappeared in real time, as gamers sent their last frantic messages to through their colorful penguin avatars.

Over 140,000 users were members of a Discord server for the game as of today, when all messages on Discord disappeared. The game’s website now displays a notice that it was seized by the City of London Police.

In 2007, Disney bought Club Penguin, the children’s role-playing game that served as my first introduction to online fandom, for a whopping $700 million. Even then, as a kid with little background on tech industry takeovers, the purchase seemed like a foreshadowing (at least so my friends on the Miniclip forums thought, where I fraudulently claimed I was 13). But finally, those of us who were fans of virtual sledding games and dance parties, we stopped doing it, and after boasting 200 million users, the game was shut down due to lack of interest in 2017. Disney tried to move the remaining players to a new mobile game called Club Penguin Island, but it only lasted a year.

But since the end of Club Penguin, when the iceberg finally tipped over in a strangely emotional moment, there have always been remakes for nostalgic adults to relive their days of collecting puffles, dancing at the pizzeria, and sprinting bans.

While Meta desperately tries to get people to play “Horizon Worlds” and adopt their interpretation of the metaverse, the fan-made Club Penguin remake remained popular. Even indie musician Soccer Mommy, who once opened for a Bernie Sanders rally, played Club Penguin Rewrite in April 2020.

Only one message remains on Discord, posted early this morning by an admin:

“CPRewrite is shutting down effective immediately due to a full request from Disney,” the administrator said. “We have voluntarily given control of the website to the police to continue their copyright investigation.”

TechCrunch contacted the City of London Police and Disney to verify these claims, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Image credits: Screenshot from TechCrunch

This is not the first time that Disney has been in litigation over this IP that it no longer uses. In 2020, Disney shut down “Club Penguin Online,” another copy of the game that acquired more than a million new players during the pandemic, the BBC reported. Apparently, the site was riddled with racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and sexual messages, and a man involved with the site was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

According to Club Penguin Rewrite’s legal disclaimer on its website, updated in April 2020 and accessed via the Wayback Machine, the game prohibited harassment and obscene or bigoted language. Disney may have tried to shut down Club Penguin Rewrite because the site generated advertising revenue. But according to an old 2017 tweet, Club Penguin Rewritten used the advertising money to pay for web servers, then donated the rest. It is unclear how long this policy remained in place. Some users in a Reddit thread pointed out that the game had implemented a feature that allowed players to view an advertisement in exchange for an in-game gift, which could also have triggered Mickey Mouse alarms.

Regardless, IP theft is IP theft. But also, a fun penguin game is a fun penguin game. Sigh.

We’ll update this story when we know more.

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