Players loved the games and aside from the in-game ad-interruptions they seemed to really enjoy the other site features as well.
At some point the minds at Pogo wondered how people would respond to a subscription service where players pay a small yearly or monthly fee, and would have access to a plethora of exclusive features and games. The thought sounded just interesting enough to pursue.
Building the Club
We had to decide on exactly what we wanted to do with this subscription service. We’d seen a competitor attempt a service focused on tournaments and leagues, and they weren’t doing so well with it.
So, after a lot of research, long meetings, and many cups of “thinking coffee”, we decided on a plan. Removing the in-game and page ads was a no-brainer. We figured we’d throw in some exclusive games, maybe a messaging system, private chat and a few other things, including some system that would reward people for playing certain games and achieving a specific goal. We’d call them “challenges” and maybe people would like them, and maybe they wouldn’t.
We also put together a beta test, in which players helped us test the new service. They really assisted us on what worked and what we needed to adjust, and after launch those folks would be instrumental in spreading the word about the new club. They were also given “Charter Member” badges, and you’ll see those in people’s Badge Albums on occasion.
Club Pogo Producer, Rich C., recollects: “Before we launched Club Pogo, we tested it out in a Beta Program to get early feedback from players. We knew right away that we had a hit on our hands, since the early reviews were so positive! People LOVED the badges from Day One. Greenback Bayou, on the other hand, was not received quite so enthusiastically…”
On July 23, 2003, we launched Club Pogo with those features and five exclusive games: Pop Fu, Jungle Gin, Dice Derby, Squelchies and of course, Greenback Bayou.
Early version of the Club Pogo Logo
The response was overwhelmingly positive. We had hoped to attract a modest number of our most loyal players with the offerings. Our expectations were exceeded by a long shot. Club Pogo attracted our most loyal followers, and then some.
While we were overwhelmed by the positive reaction we received from the players, it really pleased us that people took to the challenges and badges so passionately. We’d hoped that people would find them a fun test of skill, but we never expected people to fall in love with them the way that they have. To this day a good number of people think of Wednesday as “Challenge Day” and schedule their time so that they’ll be able to get their badge on Wednesday.
“We were and continue to be thrilled that the response to badges has been so exceptionally well received.” Senior Artist Jim F. says, “To us, each piece of art is a bit of each game, and consequently, a piece of heart from the Pogo team, to our players. While the badges themselves are physically small, they mean a great deal to the players, so we really try to show our Pogo spirit in each one.”
The badges took on a life of their own as our players grew to collect and love them. This presented a great challenge to the artists. How do you create not just one image, but two images – one very small – and make them both compelling? And how do you keep coming up with new ideas for the imagery when there are so many of them?
Our very first challenge badge set the tone for quality. “Looking back, our first badge now seems to encapsulate what Club Pogo was at the time.” says Art Director Jeff H. “Created by Chris G, it is the ‘Zen’ badge from Pop-Fu, and features a beautiful bonsai cherry blossom tree near a cliff overlooking a gorgeous blue sky with just a few flowering buds.”
Soon Club Pogo would launch more titles to the exclusive’s list: Jungle Gin, Word Whomp Whackdown and our first Club Pogo hit, Tri-peaks Solitaire, which would also launch our first human Pogo-themed mascot, Tex Carter. Tex would go on to appear in other games, and he and his games would launch the careers of the Tiki Brothers, who write a helpful tips column for the Pogo News.
The Club games took on a unique style. More graphically robust and colorful, Club games felt more engaging, and in some of them we’d added little “mini” games within the games themselves. For instance, in Squelchies, after earning enough points for a jackpot spin, you’re taken to a screen where you use a bucket to catch as many starfish as you can, earning tokens for each one caught.
In 2005, we added Pogo Minis to the Club Pogo offerings. These little “avatars” look simple and easy, but they are complicated little guys. In fact, Minis had been in the plans for a long time, and required much thought and many, many people to bring the project together.
Features Producer, Jaim F. recalls, “I vividly remember being part of the team that built Pogo Minis back in 2005. We spent months trying to get the style just right and to pick the best set of items to include out of the gate, all the while making as many improvements along the way as we could. The team sunk their hearts and souls into the Minis, and the reaction from players when Minis released repaid every bit of that effort and investment ten times over.”
“I remember hopping from room to room choosing players to get their Mini added to the ‘Hot Shots’ on the Mini Mall. We found folks with some unbelievably creative and funny Minis. We were – and are – very proud to have built something that players have had so much fun with, and we’re still amazed at the creativity we see expressed through Minis every day.”
The Minis were a hit and people really enjoyed dolling up their Minis with the clothes, backgrounds and goodies found in the Mini Mall. You’ll see a couple of unreleased original “Goodies” here– the turtle and the hare. These were to go with a car repair theme, but were never released. A handful or so of the items created for the initial release ended up sitting for a while before finding a better home with a more fitting theme.
Thanks to hard work and our loyal players who put up with a few growing pains here and there, both Pogo and now Club Pogo are wildly popular. With the addition of badges and Minis, we’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings!
NEXT: Wrapping Up a Decade!
And here are some memories our players would like to share:
Joined Pogo: 2006
Story: I have enjoyed every minute I have spent on pogo. I have played on many different game sites since June 06, 2006, I have to say, there are none that even come close to being like Pogo.
I have made some great friends through Pogo. Some I see a lot some I have not seen in years. To me, Pogo seems like one big family. There is always someone willing to help or just lend a ear when thing are not going so well.
I do play on other game sites, but Pogo is the one I always come back to. Pogo is Awesome. Way to go! Keep up the awesome job
Cheers to another 10 years.
Joined Pogo: 2003
Story: I have been a member since May 21st 2003. I just absolutely love Pogo. Especially this last year as it has been difficult for me and Pogo has been a lifesaver for entertainment.
I was hospitalized in February with cellulitis and I was pregnant at the same time. I spent well over a month in the hospital recovering from numerous surgeries and a c-section among other things. After I got home, I had four leg wounds that really kept me “chair-bound” so I found a lot comfort in the all the exciting games Pogo has to offer. It has gotten me through a very tough year.
Thank you Pogo for being there!! I love you Pogo!!
Joined Pogo: 2002
Story: I discovered Pogo one day after a chemo treatment. I was feeling ill and sorry for myself when I found the greatest game site on the Internet.
After four years my husband casually asked if he could play a game of Texas Hold-Em. Well, needless to say, I needed to create another account for myself because my husband was so hooked on Texas and Dice City, I gave him my account, (changed to the male character and added a beard on the mini and whoosh, he was in Hog Heaven.
I’ve been cancer free for 7 years and happily playing Pogo– it gets better every year! Thanks so much.