It’s the spring of 2016. You’ve just come back home from school. You log into your computer and start playing Zwinky.
Everything is alright, you’re at peace. Then all of a sudden, the developers announce that Zwinky is officially shutting down.
It’s been 6 years and yet thousands of people still murmur – is Zwinky still a game? For those who missed the official announcement, the virtual platform came to an abrupt halt in August 2016.
In a world where one grows tired of their own personality, Zwinky allowed people to create a new one. It provided a means to escape reality by creating virtual characters and interacting with other like-minded people from around the world.
The gaming community was mad after the game. Everything was perfect until it wasn’t. When the developers officially announced the discontinuation of Zwinky, the fans were understandably upset.
While they were eligible to get their refunds, they didn’t want the money, they just wanted their favorite game back.
What happened that led to the gradual disappearance of the game that millions of people loved?
The mystery still shrouds the betrayed eyes of millions of Zwinkies, who still check the website’s status every other year, just in case. The question still stands – why did Zwinky close its doors to its fans?
In this article, we’ll find out everything that you need to know about the abrupt disappearance of Zwinky’s virtual mania.
Zwinky’s Background and Rise to Fame
The game Zwinky was founded in 2006. It catered to the revolutionary idea of creating virtual characters, or avatars, where the users could interact with other people online.
Over the course of its ten successful years, Zwinky gained massive popularity, amassing over 30 million users spread over a platform of 215 different countries.
If we want to understand the abrupt closure of the game, we should ask one more important question – who created Zwinky?
Fortunately, that answer is easily accessible to everyone. InterActiveCorp (IAC) was the company that developed Zwinky.
By providing a whole virtual world, Zwinky creators wanted to attract teens between the ages of 13 and 24.
The game primarily focused on two popular cultures from that time – music and fashion. Needless to say, the fans loved the concept, and the game was a massive hit.
But it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. While the developers put their heart and soul into creating the game, the fans weren’t entirely pleased with them.
Over the years, Zwinky became prone to attacks from hackers and malware, and also invited predators who engaged in inappropriate sexting.
All of this caused a huge outrage as many people considered Zwinky to be their safe place. While the fans called for improvements, the developers remained mum.
Over time, there was an obvious clash between the creators of the game and its users. That, we can say, was the first stepping stone to the fall of Zwinky.
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Zwinky’s Shut Down – Why Did The Game Stop Abruptly?
It seemed like Zwinky’s online popularity knew no bounds. It allowed users to do tons of exciting activities, like creating private rooms, interacting with other Zwinkies, creating Avatars, and just having a nice time with other like-minded individuals from physically far-away areas.
Many users even found their life-long friends, and in some cases, soul-mates through the interactive virtual platform.
But when it seemed like Zwinky knew no ceiling, it reached its summit abruptly. On 26 August 2016, the developers of the game announced that they will be shutting down Zwinky’s servers permanently.
The official announcement reads:
It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Zwinky has decided to close its virtual doors. Please visit Zwinky’s official website to learn more.
The announcement, as expected, was met with disdain and controversy. The fans didn’t like that the developers decided to close Zwinky the game without any prior information or warning.
While some were concerned about their refunds, most were still adamant about the fact that the game could still exist if the developers played their cards right.
So what went wrong? How could a game of such immense popularity shut down in a matter of minutes? Several people have tried producing other games like Zwinky but to no avail.
Fans, in numbers of thousands, are still actively looking for a Zwinky reboot, even as the year 2022 comes to a close.
There are 2 main reasons why we believe Zwinky had to bid a teary farewell to its devout fans:
1. Malware Infestations:
The first reason is something that the developers couldn’t control by themselves. People believe that the infamous MyWebSearch toolbar hacked Zwinky in 2016, ultimately wreaking so much havoc that Mindspark had to close off the game entirely.
To play the game, users had to first download the Zwinky app onto their computers. Only then could they access the vast virtual world created by the company.
However, when the MyWebSearch toolbar hacked Zwinky in 2016, the malware spread onto the computers of users as well.
That resulted in a ginormous problem. Imagine, thousands of computers infected by the same malware because of a game.
It became increasingly difficult for Zwinky players to get rid of the app and the malware. As such, they began uninstalling the program, making the company experience large revenue losses.
Thus, because of malware infections across a network of computers, Zwinky suffered huge losses. They couldn’t remove the virus, and neither could they recover the lost customers.
They concluded that it would be more beneficial for all parties involved to get rid of the game completely. It would protect them from further losses, and also protect their users from virus attacks.
2. Bad Company Management:
If you recall, we mentioned that there was a strict clash between the developers of the game (the company) and the users.
The fans wanted improvements within the game and the company just didn’t deliver. As a result, more and more users began straying away from the game, which again resulted in huge losses for the company.
This was also the time when Zwinky was attacked by the malware, propagating further losses for the game.
When both the events collided, it acted as a massive setback for the company and the game, as a whole. They lost many users in that year who were unlikely to ever come back again.
It was also around 2015-2016 that the company changed the interface of the game in an update. While the new interface acted as an “upgrade”, the fans didn’t like it. They demanded that the developers revert the update and switch back to the old version.
However, the company officials didn’t pay any attention to the demands of the fans and ignored their outcries.
As a result, many fans moved on from the game and stopped playing it. There were comparatively very less people on the website after the new update.
The indifferent nature of the company also enraged several loyal fans of the game. MindSpark, therefore, built a bad reputation for itself, which came at the cost of thousands of users who stopped playing their game.
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Zwinky Shuts Down Officially To Save Face
The number of active users on Zwinky was already dwindling after the clash between the developers and the fans.
The malware infestation served as the final straw for the company. It decided to close its doors forever.
By August 2016, Zwinky had lost a huge number of users due to the abovementioned reasons. If they continued, they would have suffered greater economic losses. Thus, shutting down the game completely was their only way to avoid bankruptcy.
It’s a testament to how, even the largest of sensations, can see their downfall if they don’t listen to their communities.
The fans of Zwinky made the game what it was, and when the company started ignoring them, it died piece by piece.
While the virtual platform still remains inaccessible to nostalgic gamers, there are other sites like Zwinky that might grab your attention. Let’s talk about some of them.
Websites Like Zwinky to Experience a Virtual World
Zwinky might be the revolutionary platform that allowed users to interact with other players virtually.
But it’s not the only one. Over the years, many different games have come up that offer the same functionality.
Some of them might be even better than Zwinky in terms of versatility. So if you want to go back to creating your virtual Avatar, here are some Zwinky-like games that you can choose from:
Perhaps the most popular, and also a personal favorite, IMVU is one of the top substitutes for Zwinky in 2022. It features an online metaverse where players can design their online avatars and interact with other players.
There are tons of activities that players can do together while also having access to a huge virtual market having over 30 million online items for sale.
SMeet is just like any other virtual-world-based game. It allows users to playfully interact with other 3D avatars controlled by people in real time.
The game makes global social interaction more accessible and is a great place to have fun and hang out with old friends and new ones.
3. Lady Popular
Lady Popular is one for the fashion freaks. It allows you to create a character and build up their fashion lives. Moreover, the game also features other storylines like fashion duels, having a boyfriend, and so on.
The game is vastly popular and features a lot of activities and other fun stuff. You can find out more by visiting their official website.
4. Second Life
This game offers a deeper perspective on creating and living your own virtual life. Apart from all the fun stuff that you can do, Second Life also replicates a real-life economy to make things spicier. With this game, you can literally live out a second life, only virtually.
Poptropica is an online role-playing game that mainly targets children between the ages of 6 and 15.
Jeff Kinney, the popular author of the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is the creator of the game. So you know that it’s going to be a fun experience.
Zwinky was a huge thing back in the 2010s. However, because of some unfortunate events and bad blood between the game developers and fans, it ultimately shut down in 2016.
While many people still look for Zwinky out of nostalgia, they’ll be glad to know that there are other alternatives with a similar theme. And they don’t look to be dying out anytime soon!