“Our world is falling apart around us …” wrote a Reddit user this morning ir / ClubPenguinRewritten, where he documented how the fan-driven, probably illegal re-recording of Club Penguin slowly faded in front of their eyes. Rumors swirled among gamblers, presuming a legal conflict 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 latest, hectic messages through their colorful penguin avatars.
Over 140,000 users were members of a Discord server for the game until today, when every message on Discord disappeared. The game’s website now shows a notice that it was seized by City of London police.
In 2007, Disney Club bought Penguin – the child role-playing game that served as my first introduction to online fandom – for as much as $ 700 million. Even then, as a kid with a bit of context about buying technology industries, the purchase seemed offensive (at least my friends thought so on the Miniclip forums, where I fraudulently claimed to be 13). But eventually those of us who were dedicated fans of virtual sledding games and dance parties grew out of it, and after once boasting 200 million users, the game was shut down due to lack of interest in 2017. Disney tried to send the remaining players to a new mobile game called Club Penguin Island, but it only lasted for a year.
But ever since the end of Club Penguin – when the iceberg finally tipped in a strangely emotional moment – there have always been remakes out there for nostalgic adults to relive their days of collecting puffles, dancing in the pizza shop and speed-running bans.
While Meta is desperately trying to get people to play “Horizon Worlds” and embrace its interpretation of the meta-verse, the fan-made remake of Club Penguin remained popular. Even indie musician Soccer Mommy, who once opened for a Bernie Sanders rally, played a concert at the Club Penguin Rewritten in April 2020.
There is only one message left on Discord, posted early this morning by an administrator:
“The CPRewritten is closing with immediate effect due to a full request from Disney,” the administrator said. “We have voluntarily given the police control of the website so that they can continue their copyright investigation.”
TechCrunch contacted the City of London Police and Disney to confirm these allegations, but did not respond back to the announcement.
This is not the first time that Disney has been in lawsuits over this IP that it no longer uses. In 2020, Disney closed “Club Penguin Online”, another copy of the game that gained over a million new players during the pandemic, the BBC reported. Apparently, the site was filled with racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and sexual messages, and a man involved in the site was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography.
Per Club Penguin Rewritten’s legal disclaimer on its website, updated in April 2020 and accessed via Wayback Machine, prohibited the game from harassment and obscene or prejudiced language. It is possible that Disney could have tried to shut down the Club Penguin Rewrite because the site generated advertising revenue. But according to an old tweet from 2017, Club Penguin Rewritten used the advertising money to pay for the web servers and then donated the rest. It is unclear how long this policy remained in place. Some users in a Reddit thread noted that the game had rolled out a feature that allowed players to see an ad in exchange for a gift in the game, which could also have triggered Mickey Mouse’s alarm bells.
No matter what, IP theft is IP theft. But also a fun penguin game is a fun penguin game. Suk.
We will update this story as we learn more.