First off, thanks to all of the many Insider fans who submitted questions (and groups of questions) to the contest. I've read many of the pages and definitely taken notes about what you're most interested in. Justin picked 10 questions for me to choose from and I selected these five questions to answer. Congratulations to the winners - enjoy those Director's Chairs! All the best and have fun in Webkinz World!
1. WebkinzMomma2 How important are the in-game surveys in determining the future of Webkinz World?
Since we launched Webkinz World back in April 2005, I have personally written every survey that appeared in the Newspaper, and I review the results of every one. The interesting thing about surveys is that the difference between how 1000 players respond and 100,000 players respond is very, very little, so I can get the results very quickly. And yes, these results definitely affect the future of the site.
Here is a very recent example. I did a survey after this year's Christmas Countdown asking how people did getting their gifts. The amount of people who answered that they had tried to find Ms. Birdy, but couldn't and didn't get any gifts, was far too high for my liking. So I immediately changed how the Valentine's Day event worked. That's right, Cinnamon was going to appear randomly. What did this one change make? We had a very positive response to the event. While we won't change every event (a Leprechaun Chase isn't much fun if you know where he is), I can guarantee that Ms. Birdy will standing in the SantaKinz room full time this year.
2. Webkinzgirl427 How many changes do items, pets, characters, etc. go through before actually being put into WW?...How do you decide what items look like? Like what is the decision process like for items, pets (Virtual or plush I guess), characters, etc.
Here's how we create the items in Webkinz World. First off we plan out what we want to do for the year - how many exclusives, super-exclusive beds, PotM items, rare themes, W-Shop theme, recipes, and so on. Then I have my creative team come up with a number of options. For themes we start with a concept and a basic description. For specific items, like exclusives, we write small descriptions and grab photos that will help the artist get a feel for what we are looking for. Then our amazing art team takes those ideas and goes at it.
We have a weekly meeting where we review the items that have been completed. It is here that the most revisions happen. A lot of the time, the artist gets it on the first shot, or there is just a minor change - that trophy is too big, that picture is too high up the wall. Other times there are major changes. The Superhero theme took two major revisions to get right. First off we went too dark and moody (too Batman) and then it went too futuristic, with lots of glowing neon. On the third pass, we got it spot on.
Sometimes the artists come up with a great theme all by themselves. Love the Persian Palace rare theme? That was just presented to me, and of course I said "Release it!"
As for our plush pets - we have a plush department that creates those. We emulate the plush as close as we can, and come up with the pet specific items using the same process.
3. adrkmfdm What exactly lies outside the ww boundaries? Is there a ww moon? And will our pets ever be able to visit it?
Here's something that nobody knows. Back before Webkinz launched, we drew the planet. Yep, the whole planet. There was a lot there that I really can't talk about, and a really cool ocean. What did we do with it? We threw it out (not literally, but the idea of it). We decided not to define Webkinz World beyond Kinzville. It was a small town where you got to go and meet fun characters and take care of your pet, and well, that was all we had to say. The rest was up to you.
Obviously since then we have expanded the definition of Webkinz World. There is now the Magical Forest, the Tropical Island, Zumwhere, and if you've read the many W-Tales we've written, other areas that we've somewhat defined (like the place in the forest where Googles throw their parties). Yet overall we haven't defined much of the world, and won't be doing so anytime soon.
As for the moon itself? Sure, Webkinz World has one (Dex Dangerous needs something to protect). As for visiting it? I think there are probably vacation spots we'd rather do first, but as the song goes "never say never".
4. jenny1 One of my questions is regarding pet items and certain Webkinz items. Sometimes I see a fabulous pet item, but then get a bit disappointed when I find out that the pet item can only be placed in an outdoor room or treetop room. Why are there limits put on items as to where you can place them in your Webkinz house? Will it ever be possible to put an item anywhere we would like to place it?
Okay, I was positive that this question was going to be one of the question's picked for me to answer, so I might as well oblige.
We don't put every item in every room type simply because those are our rules. We established those rules at the beginning of the site, and with the exception of a few cases, we've stuck to them. The rules are simple. Outdoor items, like trees and pools, go outdoor and treetop. Indoor items go indoor and underwater. Windows and indoor items with flames (like fireplaces and candles) go indoor only. Small, decorative items that don't hang on walls ("presentables," as we call them) generally go everywhere. That's it in a nutshell.
Over the past year I'll admit we blurred the line with our Endangered Species "environments". These wallpapers only work indoor, but look outdoor. So while you could put a television in these rooms, you couldn't add a tree. The eStore has released a number of these wallpapers as well. Looking back, these were a mistake. We won't be doing any more "outdoor wallpapers" in the future.
We do recognize that people want to have freedom designing their spaces, and we do take this into consideration when we choose how an item can be used, but for the foreseeable future we will continue using our placement rules.
5. paardengek12 Will webkinz ever become a game? A.K.A a nintendo DS game, wii game, ps2-3 etc.
Ganz has received a lot of interest from video game developers and publishers about making a Webkinz video game (mostly for the DS). While we could have said "yes" many times, so far we've decided that it was better for us to focus on our internet site. One of the key problems about the DS is that you couldn't tie it to your Webkinz account. So while we could have you play as Arte or Cowabelle, or a generic pet, you couldn't play as YOUR pet. That just didn't feel right. If the right idea and partnership does come along, a game could be made. So far this just hasn't happened yet.
Now the iPhone is another matter. We've had a lot of fun releasing our games for the iPhone, and we're very proud of how we connected the games to your account, making them an extension of your Webkinz World experience. Where we go with this is yet to be seen, but I think it's fair to say that the sky is the limit.