What Happened to Webkinz?
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What Happened to Webkinz?

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What Happened to Webkinz?

I was making my rounds of verbose pleasantries while cashiering this past week when something horrifying caught my eyes (it also got caught on the conveyor belt, and its lint got caught all over my shirt....but that's another story). There, sure enough, passing over my hands and into the shopping bag, was a Webkinz.

You can imagine my shock: Webkinz for only one dollar?

And while my right hand smoothed the cash from the customer and my left hand typed the cash register open, my invisible hand with three eyes looked and felt around to see if there were any Webkinz still lurking about the gondolas.

My debit card reminded me from within my pants pocket that I could not afford it, just the way it had viciously reminded me ten years ago when Webkinz were quite the rage.

You might remember--oh, say about in 2008--when teenage girls were walking around with fluffy pink stuffed llamas that looked familiarly like the faces that whizzed past you on the Interstate.

Webkinz were so popular that even just three years ago, a parenting website raked Webkinz as perfect for ages up to 18. The most insane things about these faddish toys is that they used to cost $15 at the cheapest! My best friend during my tween years would collect these popular plush animals her birthday. She wanted to buy me one, but ran out of money on her two discounted Webkinz that cost around $20 each.

In the words of random Internet ghost, Ura Memetchi, on an empty forum on April 9, 2008, at 6:32 PM, I quote:

" Webkinz are Really cute. Does anyone know why they are so expensive?"

The price of the toys was rooted in their massive popularity. Each animal (the rarity of the animal determined the price range) had a secret code hidden in the animal that could only be opened after purchase. This code would unlock the animal's virtual reality world. The animal could be named, groomed, and fed all online.

This was one of the first toys, if not THE first, to combine the physical and virtual make-believe world.

Yet sometime after Christmas 2008, when the toys were in such high demands that big retail stores almost sold more than they had in stock, sales began to plummet.

"The NPD Group, sales for Web-connected play toys have plunged 41% this year through August, marking the biggest decline among the 13 categories tracked by the market research firm," reported news website, AOL in a 2009 article.

Many attributed the huge decrease to the bug problems of the Webkinz game site, or even called the plunge temporary. Webkinz left the headlines as quickly as it had come, and hit the attics and donation trucks.

What happened to Webkinz?

There aren't many articles to answer this question, but most articles about Webkinz are usually blogs about tween toys or life style. Trendy toys for tweens can create huge problems because within a year--maybe two years--maybe even just a few months, the kids who are purchasing the popular merchandise become teenagers. During this transition (need I remind you) their tastes change, and so do their wish lists. Needless to add on top of this, most thirteen-year-old wouldn't be caught dead with a plushie in their bedroom.

The internet changed a long with the teens. More free options for online games became popular (like Disney's Club Penguin) as the Internet continued to grow and allow for more opportunities than it had in 2008.

Phone technology also evolved, as well as the number of subscribers every year. A chart to 2008 shows the rapid growth of teen phone owners in the United States:

And in 2007, the first iPhone came out, leading the a world where everyone would use smartphones instead of stuffed animals and virtual worlds:

While age and technology both played a huge role in making Webkinz popular, it would seem in the end those are what destroyed Webkinz.

Not that they aren't fun. There is actually a Webkinz phone app with even more cool features than the Webkinz cult--I mean, er, website--had back in the day.

I might pick up a cute unicorn Webkinz at the Dollar Tree if they're still selling them, just to refuel some childhood nostalgia.

Nostalgia is certainly the right word, because most kids haven't even heard of Webkinz these days. Even friends who are only two years younger than me missed the existence of the toys during their mad popularity, causing me to wonder whether the Webkinz fad was a single age group all buying the same toys at a single point in time.

What toys are popular with tweens now?

I've seen twenty-somethings and ten somethings pick up numerous things at stores. The most popular would be the tsums tsums (a Disney plush line of collectibles)

Shopkins

And especially these funk pop figurines that I still don't know what to do with

(I guess I can't get myself to spend $15 on a toy that would probably give me nightmares each night...I know, weirdo here.)

But as for the same kind of short-lived, skyrocketing popularity of Webkinz, that is yet to be seen.

What can I say as I watch the sad Webkinz puppies and reindeer plunk on the register and into the shopping crinkled bag? I'm thankful my parents made me put my money into savings instead of buying a toy for $20 that cost a dollar now. Webkinz aren't bad, they're not weird, they're just stuffed animals. In 2008 they were alive in the Webkinz World, but now they're just puffs of thread and cotton and black beaded eyes asleep on the aisle shelves.

What happened?


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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