Back in 2017, Disney announced that it was shutting down kid-friendly MMO Club Penguin after 12 years of play, replacing it with a new MMO Club Penguin Island on the same day. Now Club Penguin Island is sunsetting too; Disney says it’s lights out at the end of the year.
The official statement from Disney praises the game as a “true passion project” in a franchise with “over 200 million accounts,” but it doesn’t clearly state a reason for the shutdown. An internal memo leaked to Kotaku, however, cites “increasing global competition” and a desire to “reduce [the] workforce” to “reduce costs further and become more competitive.”
Adding the over 500 game industry workers laid off from various studios in the last month, Disney has apparently let go “dozens” of people who worked on CPI, all based out of a studio in Kelowna, British Columbia.
“There aren’t many opportunities in a city like Kelowna, so most of us will have to move our families if we want to pursue games,” an affected staffer reportedly told Kotaku. “It’s a huge blow to all of us.” Another said he was “blindsided” – that the devs had been “told three weeks ago that [they’d] been green-lit and would have jobs for at least 2 years” while working on a new game. “The whole studio was basically popping champagne, only to have that pulled out from under us by someone way up the chain at Disney,” he relayed.
The only saving grace here is that Disney granted employees “about five weeks of severance and benefits for one month.” Additional shutdown information is forthcoming. Our hearts go out to the players and rank-and-file developers affected by the sunset.