We bought a Webkinz animal for each of our three oldest children. If you’re not familiar with Webkinz, the unique feature of this toy is the online integration. Basically, one buys an animal for about ten bucks and then goes online to register, adopt and name their pet. It reminds me a bit of Animal Crossing (Which our kids and their mom enjoy on the Nintendo DS) where there are places to see and activities to join in which earn Webkinz money which can be used to buy things in this virtual world.
On Christmas day one would assume the Webkinz website would be overloaded with kids trying to register their new pets. But we tried anyway and ran into this message:
We decided to come back the next day and ran into the same problem. We’ve been trying to login to the site for four days now and I finally got all three pets registered, adopted and named tonight but not without more hassle.
Near the end of the registration process, I was presented with the screen below which asks me to “Enter the letters” I see in this image. Do you see any letters in the the box? If you look closely, the letter are supposed to appear in the rectangular box, but they didn’t appear until I clicked on the back button, entered in the “Webkinz Secret Code” and returned to this screen. I had to do this several times for all three pets. I’ve run into confusing “captcha” screens but I’ve never been presented with a ghost “captcha”.
Luca has been checking out the Webkinz world for the past hour or so and seems to really like it so it appears the inconvenience was worth it. But it doesn’t leave a good impression.
Webkinz had to know there would be a rush on its website on Christmas day. Technology such as AmazonS3 is available to resolve scalability issues. Webkinz isn’t run by two teens in their basement trying to get the business off the ground. They are owned by Ganz which is good sized toy company. There is no excuse for a four day outage like this.
What could Webkinz do to soften the blow to our kids? How about extend the subscription (the first 12 months is free) by 6 months? Or give them an extra 100 bucks in Webkinz cash. Something that shows they care about the frustration they caused.