Neopets is kicking off its new era by returning to an old one: The company's newly-independent leadership has announced the creation of a trading card game called Neopets Battledome, harkening back to the original Neopets Trading Card Game from the early 2000s. I never played that one myself, but I bet there are a lot of 20- and 30-somethings out there who experience a kind of full-body time travel whenever someone reminds them of it.
Unlike the original Neopets TCG, which was made by Wizards of the Coast, the new card game is being made by Upper Deck. That's the same company taking rival game-maker Ravensburger to court over upcoming CCG Disney Lorcana, if the name sounds familiar.
Neopets Battledome is set to hit in 2024, just in time for Neopets' 25th anniversary. It'll be a two-player TCG featuring "a unique dice combat system, innovative deck building strategies, and over 20 Neopets to collect". If the name rings a bell, it's because the Battledome was where you'd send your Neopets to fight and die in your name in the browser game.
The game will feature "over 250 unique pieces of custom art" from a bunch of different artists and you can get a look at it if you happen to be attending this August's Gen Con. Otherwise, you're just gonna have to wait until next year. Given that I imagine a lot of the people who will be excited about this have probably been waiting for it since the original was discontinued in 2006, I suppose one more year isn't too much to ask.
Neopets is a strangely potent concept for me. Like Myspace, Bebo, MSN Messenger, and Smarterchild (the original and greatest AI), it seems like some sort of totemic symbol of a now-buried era of the internet. Seeing it somehow survive—and escape the embrace of its NFT-hawking former parent company—and still have the clout to put out actual, physical products in 2023 is weirdly touching. It might not have that strength which in the old days dominated browsers everywhere, but Neopets still lives.