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Animal Jam is an online virtual world developed by WildWorks. It was originally launched in 2010, in collaboration with the National Geographic Society. With about 160 million registered players, Animal Jam is one of the many fastest-growing online children's properties in the world. In Animal Jam, players discover and learn various facts about zoology using the game's numerous features, including mini-games, adventures, parties, and social interactions. Due to its growing popularity, Animal Jam has spawned different types of merchandise, including figurine toys, children's books, and a subscription box. Although Animal Jam is primarily played online, the Animal Jam universe has been expanded to incorporate mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and iOS devices. The most popular Animal Jam mobile app is Play Wild which is a 3D version of the Animal Jam world. WildWorks has also developed other apps that are based on the Animal Jam game including Tunnel Town, AJ Jump, and Dash Tag.

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    1. Development

    Animal Jam was developed by WildWorks (then called Smart Bomb Interactive) and it was launched on September 9, 2010.[1] In 2011, Animal Jam had over 1 million registered players in the game. Later, in March 2013, the game had already achieved over 10 million players, a milestone which was made known to all players in the game itself.[2] Since then, Animal Jam's population has grown extensively with the game now having over 100 million players as of late 2018.[3] In October 2018, Animal Jam collaborated with Make-a-Wish Foundation to allow a young girl to design a pet for the game, known as Meagyn's Pet Bear in honor of the fellow player.[4]

    2. Gameplay Environment

    Animal Jam takes place in a fictional area known as Jamaa, with various different biomes and customizable animals. New players create an animal with a name composed of three simple words. From that point, players can customize and move around with it in the gameplay environment. The original six virtual animals that could be created were the panda, rabbit, tiger, wolf, koala, and monkey. Many more animals are added following the six, giving players a possibility of seeing one of their favorite animals in-game.

    Players can customize their own dens with furniture, artwork made by themselves or other jammers, and decorations, chat with other players, adopt pets, play mini-games, trade and buy in-game items, such as clothing and furniture, with gems and diamonds as the game's currency, attend parties, and go on various RPG-style adventures. There is a membership feature available that costs real money; only members get access to exclusive dens, pets, animals, and, formerly, adventures, among other things.[5]

    2.1. Communication and Safety

    Animal Jam contains three versions of in-game chat, offering various levels of restriction. Bubble Chat restricts players from typing messages but allows them to select predefined words and phrases from a list. Safe Chat, the default setting, allows players to only type words or phrases from a particular list which only the game permits, similar to a whitelist. Safe Chat Plus, previously available only to members but now available for all players, allows players to type any word or phrase, albeit being run through the game's safe chat filter. Parents can control players’ chat settings from the site's parent dashboard.[6] One can report or block another player for unacceptable, intolerable, or inappropriate behavior. If the player is found chatting in an unacceptable, intolerable, or inappropriate way, the player can have their chat blocked, chat muted for a specific amount of time (usually a day), or even be banned from logging on for a specific period.

    Animal Jam is free from outside advertising, and it adheres to a strict privacy policy.[7]

    2.2. Educational Elements

    In addition to in-game nature facts and activities, Animal Jam provides somewhat educational video content featuring herpetologist Brady Barr[8] and marine biologist Tierney Thys.[9] Furthermore, activities and messages about the prevention of environmental problems and events can be found throughout the game.

    The journey book is also an educational feature to the game. When the player find any matching picture from the journey book, the player will be told a fact about the animal/plant/reptile/mammal. During other events, as well, other items (banners, paintings, etc.) will also be clickable to read facts. On mobile ``Animal Jam`` the loading also includes facts about animals.

    3. Other Media

    3.1. Merchandise

    Animal Jam shirts, books, stuffed animals, hats, in-game currency, books, and toys are sold on the Animal Jam Outfitters site.[10]

    In 2013, WildWorks partnered with Sidekix to produce a set of eight stuffed animals modeled after Animal Jam avatars that can "flip" into a ball.[11] Later, in 2015, WildWorks announced that it had registered Commonwealth Toys and Novelty as master toy licensee.[12] Currently, Commonwealth is producing a new toy line called "Enchanted Earth". In October 2015, WildWorks named Jazwares as the master toy partner for the Animal Jam brand. Jazwares began developing figures, playsets, and plush items that launched internationally in 2016.[13]

    In June 2016, WildWorks released Animal Jam toys which consisted of stuffed animals, figures, and toy sets. One of which is a series of toys called "Animal Jam Adopt-a-Pet" which comes with a miniature figure of a pet from the game and two accessories in a den shaped box, along with an in-game item code. Since release, four series have been released featuring different pets, accessories, and dens.

    On November 16, 2016, WildWorks launched "Animal Jam Box", a subscription box containing merchandise sent to those who subscribe to the box plan.[14]

    In early 2019, WildWorks' contract had ended, and could no longer make merchandise toys. However, the subscription box is still existent.

    3.2. Animal Jam Academy

    Animal Jam Academy is a program by WildWorks directly linked to the Animal Jam website.[15] It provides users with "how-to" projects with the themes of science, technology, engineering, and art.

    3.3. Mobile Apps

    Play Wild

    The most popular mobile application by WildWorks is Play Wild, a 3D version of the Animal Jam universe, which was released in August 2015.[16] Although the app is free to download and play, it requires a lot of storage space on the mobile device.

    In February 2016, WildWorks announced that Play Wild had reached over 1 million downloads. The app is the top downloaded iPad educational game in 20 countries, the top downloaded game for kids 9-11 in 35 countries, and top grossing iPad game in 54 countries.[17] On May 19, 2017, Play Wild won the Google Play Awards 2017 for Best Kids' App.[18] ily

    Other apps

    On July 18, 2013, a free Animal Jam-based app, titled "Tunnel Town," was released.[19] In Tunnel Town, players raise a bunny family underground by purchasing and raising new rabbit species.

    Later in 2013, a second Animal Jam-based mobile game was made available for purchase, titled "AJ Jump."[20] This game centers on kangaroos (introduced to Animal Jam at the time) with a similar gameplay format to Doodle Jump.[21]

    In 2018, a third game was released, titled "Dash Tag".[22] In Dash Tag, the player collects various animals and attempts to evade capture from Misha the Panda. The gameplay is an endless runner similar to Subway Surfers.

    4. Donations

    The Gem donation box in the game's Conservation Museum (found in Appondale) is one way Animal Jam helps support the mission to inspire children to care about the planet. A significant portion of all revenue Animal Jam collects goes to support worldwide conservation efforts. By June 2012, players enabled the Animal Jam creators at WildWorks to contribute over $3 million to the National Geographic Society's work. The Play Wild Fund was introduced in November 2011 to allow players to choose which animals and conservation efforts they wanted to donate to. ``Animal Jam`` Wishes to create a bigger community to contribute to the planet.

    5. Reception

    Animal Jam received relatively positive reviews, with some criticism towards moderation flaws and strict limitations. Common Sense Media reviewer Dana Villamagna gave Animal Jam a 3-star rating, saying the site was most appropriate for ages ten and over due to dangerous "unmonitored chat."[23] Gamezebo reviewer Nick Tylwalk gave the site a 4-star review, stating, "There's something [here] for animal lovers over a wide range of ages."[24] The game is mentioned in The Toy Insider's Hot Top 20 Game List for 2016.[25]

    6. Awards

     
    Award Recipient Result
    Mr. Dad[26] Animal Jam Won
    National Parenting Publications Awards[27] Animal Jam Won
    Life Buzz Award[28] Animal Jam Won
    About.com Readers' Choice Awards[29] Animal Jam Won
    Webby Awards, Games Category[30] Animal Jam Nominated
    2016 Parents' Choice Awards [31] Animal Jam Won
    2017 Google Play Awards, Best Kids App Category[32] Animal Jam - Play Wild Won

    References

    1. "Young Explorers Experience Ultimate Online Playground With National Geographic Animal Jam". August 2010. https://web.archive.org/web/20130701065844/http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2010/08/03/young-explorers-online-playground-animal-jam/. 
    2. Grubb, Jeffrey (March 2013). "National Geographic's Animal Jam reaches 10 million players — iOS spin-off in the works". https://venturebeat.com/2013/03/18/animal-jam-social-game-10-million/. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
    3. "WildWorks - News". October 2017. http://www.wildworks.com/news/. 
    4. Burt, Spencer (2018-10-25). "Utah video game headquarters grants Wisconsin girl's wish" (in en). https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900038848/utah-video-game-headquarters-grants-wisconsin-girls-wish.html. 
    5. "Animal Jam - Member Benefits". https://www.animaljam.com/member_benefits. Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
    6. "What types of chat can I set for my child's account?". https://sbiaj.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/202832200-What-types-of-chat-can-I-set-for-my-child-s-account-. 
    7. Schiff, Allison (December 2014). "Animal Jam: 'Monetizing An App For Kids Is Easy - Doing It Ethically Is What's Hard'". http://adexchanger.com/mobile/animal-jam-monetizing-an-app-for-kids-is-easy-doing-it-ethically-is-whats-hard/. 
    8. Takahashi, Dean (May 2011). "National Geographic virtual world Animal Jam hits a million kids". https://venturebeat.com/2011/05/16/national-geographic-virtual-world-animal-jam-hits-a-million-kids/. 
    9. Abraham, Kera (June 2014). "Marine biologist and science educator is on a mission to promote ocean stewardship.". http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/people/marine-biologist-and-science-educator-is-on-a-mission-to/article_d46d923e-f1c0-11e3-a792-0017a43b2370.html. 
    10. "Animal Jam Outfitters". animaljam.com. https://shop.animaljam.com. 
    11. "Sidekix". sidekix.com. http://www.sidekix.com/products.php. 
    12. "Animal Jam lands master toy licensee". March 10, 2015. http://kidscreen.com/2015/03/10/animal-jam-lands-master-toy-licensee. 
    13. "WildWorks Names Jazwares as the Master Toy Partner for Animal Jam Brand". http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/wildworks-names-jazwares-as-the-master-toy-partner-for-animal-jam-brand-2062410.htm. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
    14. "Animal Jam Box". https://animaljambox.com. Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
    15. "Animal Jam Academy". https://academy.animaljam.com/posts. Retrieved 10 Aug 2018. 
    16. "Play Wild". animaljam.com. http://playwild.animaljam.com/. 
    17. "Animal Jam Named Fastest Growing Gaming Site in the United States by SimilarWeb". http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/animal-jam-named-fastest-growing-gaming-site-in-the-united-states-by-similarweb-2094049.htm. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
    18. "Google Play Award Winners 2017: Google picks the best apps and games of the last year". 19 May 2017. http://www.androidauthority.com/google-play-award-winners-2017-773741/. Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
    19. "Tunnel Town". tunneltown.com. http://tunneltown.com/. 
    20. "AJ Jump". animaljam.com. http://jump.animaljam.com/. 
    21. WildWorks. "AJ Jump: Animal Jam Kangaroos! - Android Apps on Google Play". google.com. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.SmartBomb.AJJump&hl=en. 
    22. WildWorks. "Dash Tag - Fun Endless Runner!". google.com. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.WildWorks.DashTag&hl=en_US. 
    23. "Common Sense Media - Animal Jam". commonsensemedia.org. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/website-reviews/animal-jam. 
    24. "Gamezebo Animal Jam Review". Gamezebo. http://www.gamezebo.com/2013/01/03/animal-jam-review/. 
    25. "Top Holiday Toys - 2017 Holiday Toy Reviews - The Toy Insider". http://www.thetoyinsider.com/holiday_guide/hot-20/?platform=hootsuite. Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
    26. "Seal of Approval Winners, Father’s Day 2011". June 2011. http://www.mrdad.com/reviews/soa-winners/winners-06-11/. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
    27. "National Parenting Publications Awards :: Virtual". Archived from the original on 3 May 2013. https://web.archive.org/web/20130503022702/http://www.nappaawards.com/index.php/award-winners1/toys-24/. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
    28. "Jodie Lynn's Life Buzz Award Program". Jodie Lynn. http://www.lifebuzzaward.com/winnersspecial.php. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
    29. Matte, Christy (2011). "Best Website for Elementary School Kids - 2011 Readers' Choice Award Winner". Christy Matte. http://familyinternet.about.com/od/computinglifestyle/ss/2011-Readers-Choice-Award-Winners_4.htm. Retrieved 2014-12-28. 
    30. "Smart Bomb's National Geographic Animal Jam Nominated in 17th Annual Webby Awards". April 12, 2013. http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/12/smart-bombs-national-geographic-animal-jam-nominated-in-17th-annual-webby-awards/. 
    31. "Animal Jam". http://www.parents-choice.org/product.cfm?product_id=34439&StepNum=1&award=aw. 
    32. "2017 Google Play Awards". https://play.google.com/store/info/topic?id=merch_topic_30028d2_playwards2017_winnersTP. 
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