Several blogs, including PaidContent, reported today that Sony is in "advanced talks" to buy ClubPenguin a social networking and online game site geared toward kids that was launched in October 2005. The price is reported as in the ballpark of $450 million.
The subscription-based (six dollars per month) ClubPenguin takes the form of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), where children play games, amass virtual goods, and interact with each other, all while participating as penguin avatars. According to PaidContent, the site rakes in about $60 million in revenues and is already profitable despite being fewer than two years old. In March, ClubPenguin had 4.5 million visitors.
The ClubPenguin acquisition by Sony hasn't been confirmed yet. But it's already clear that Sony has interest in the MMORPG and virtual world space: it's in the process of launching its own virtual world (for grown-ups), called "Home" and accessed via the PlayStation 3 console.
While social networking sites with teen and adult audiences, like MySpace and Facebook, tend to monopolize the press buzz, their younger-skewing brethren are a force to be reckoned with. Recently, Webkinz have proven popular among the single-digit set, and NeoPets was a hot acquisition for MTV Networks in 2005.
After all, with kid-oriented social networks like these, it's Mom and Dad--not teens or 20-somethings on a budget--who have the wallet power.