Archives, Heads Up, Home Page Feed, Latest News|August 26, 2018 12:00 AM

Looking Back on 19 Years of Pogo

It’s hard to believe, but is 19 years old. A lot has happened in that time, and we wanted to look back and share some of our favorite memories. This is a very abbreviated look back at Pogo history, but 19 years is a lot to cover!

Pogo’s origins date back to 1995, to a site called Total Entertainment Network, or TEN. TEN was focused on hardcore gaming – first person shooters, real time strategies. Relaxing favorites like mahjong and solitaire were nowhere to be found.

TEN struggled to take off in this brand-new online world, but a new idea provided hope: web games. This new direction proved more fruitful, with partnerships forming with popular portal sites like TEN delivered casual card and board games and partner sites delivered players.

Business was growing, but the brand wasn’t catching on, especially in the flashy dotcom world. By 1999, the company was looking for a new name. In grand Silicon Valley fashion, a lavish party was thrown in San Francisco and was born.

Early Pogo had a different focus for bringing players back – jackpots and cash prizes. Both helped set Pogo apart, but it was ultimately the games that kept players around. Pogo wasn’t much to look at back then, but the web was still quite young!

Few of the early Pogo games had much in the way of character, or characters for that matter. That started to change with the development of a whimsical balloon-popping game. Poppit!, with its timeless gameplay and cactus mascot Spike, set a new standard for Pogo. The Great Pogini and Buckaroo Blackjack followed, though none had Spike’s staying power.

Pogo, with all its games and promise, couldn’t escape the dotcom crash. Businesses were dropping like flies, and Pogo’s future was looking grim. Thankfully, in 2001, Electronic Arts stepped in and saved the day. EA purchased Pogo and has been our home ever since.

With the company back on solid ground, we quickly released Word Whomp and Sweet Tooth, introducing Nestor and Toothy to the Pogo party. We managed to hit new strides in terms of simultaneous users, and even earned the honor of being named “Stickiest Site on the Web” twice in a row.

 In July of 2003, we took another big step with the launch of Club Pogo. It was a challenge figuring out what to offer with a subscription service, but the answers soon came. Ad-free gameplay was the most obvious, followed by exclusive games, a private messaging system and, most importantly – Badges!

The very first Badge looks rather humble compared to modern releases, but still has plenty of charm. It was created for Pop-Fu, one of Club Pogo’s first exclusive games. Here’s a screenshot of the Zen Badge!

The reaction to Challenges and Badges was overwhelming. We thought people would find them to be a fun test of skill, but had no idea they would become such an enduring feature of Club Pogo. To this day, many members think of Wednesday as “Badge Day” and schedule time to tackle the latest Challenges.

Before long, more games were added to Club Pogo, including Jungle Gin, Word Whomp Whackdown and Tri-Peaks Solitaire. Tex Carter’s debut game turned out to be quite a hit and continues to be a popular draw well over a decade later.

Another brand-new feature arrived in 2005: Pogo Minis. It was a months-long effort to create the best possible system, figure out the perfect style and prepare the most appealing combination of items to release. Minis turned out to be a great way for Pogo players to express themselves in and out of the games. Even today, we’re blown away by all the different combinations and unique looks you guys come up with.

After Minis, Pogo decided to take some popular games like Poppit! even further. Downloadable games were introduced, starting with Poppit! To Go. The idea was to create richer, more robust games that went beyond the limitations of web games.

Over the next couple years, Pogo introduced more games, partnered with charities, started a news site with regular columns like Tiki Brothers, Ms. Netiquette and more. We also launched Premium Badge Albums, Mix-n-Match Badges and animated Mini items – all of which are still going strong!

Things kicked into overdrive in 2007, when EA and Hasbro formed a partnership. EA would produce Hasbro titles for consoles, while Pogo would create online versions of SCRABBLE, MONOPOLY, BATTLESHIP, YAHTZEE and more. It was a dream pairing!

Hasbro even helped us release some “Pocket Pogo” games, sold in retailers like Toys ‘R’ Us and Walmart. These handheld games were designed for Pogo players on the go before the era of smartphones. YAHTZEE, Word Whomp, SCRABBLE and Casino Island Blackjack were among the titles available.

Expanding beyond the usual casual gaming genres, we went hog wild for hidden object games. Titles like CLUE: Secrets & Spies and Claire Hart: Soul Searcher introduced episodic play to our games catalog. Along with titles like Big City Adventure, Undiscovered World and Sherlock Holmes, Pogo has over 1,000 game episodes available!

In the past decade, EA also purchased PopCap, which helped bring games like Plants vs. Zombies and several fun takes on Bejeweled to the site.

In recent years, Pogo has experimented with new features like a mobile app, Tournaments, and “Starter Challenges” for all Pogo players to try. In 2016, The Pogo News site became the Pogo Insider, offering more updates and better communication with players. We’ve also released several HTML5 games – the technology powering web games for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of technology, Java and Flash powered Pogo for many, many years. Java is all but dead, and Flash is soon to follow. That’s why we’re releasing so many “HD” versions of games – to make sure they don’t disappear as older technologies become inaccessible. We’ve got a lot more game updates and new titles on the way. Buckle up, because we’re moving faster than ever!

Pogo is undergoing some of its most ambitious changes right now, and we can’t way for you to see. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and plan to keep bringing you great games and features for decades to come.

Thanks for joining us and helping make the site great for 19 amazing years!

  • All your friends at Pogo


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