Kart Kingdom was a free online virtual world/MMO created by PBS Kids. It was launched as a beta game on March 24, 2015, and was the first online multiplayer world made by PBS KIDS. The game involved the player, as an avatar in the 2013 PBS KIDS style, driving a Kart, going on quests, collecting Bits, crafting Kart Parts, and talking to other players. The player can also play strategy-based minigames in the Games Tent originally from the PBS Kids website, as well as race against characters for exclusive Bits and Kart Parts.
The game had over 61,000 players and could be played on the PBS Kids website at http://pbskids.org/kartkingdom/ and on the Kart Kingdom App (available for Apple, Android, and Kindle tablets). The game also had its own blog.
It ended at midnight PST on October 1, 2020.
In 2012, PBS KIDS began requesting proposals for a virtual world MMO. Four potential avatar concepts were selected: UFO City, Modspace, Stickerdudes, and Test Pilot Academy. Each concept had a different style and premise. Eventually, it was decided that the game would be visually modeled after the 2013 rebrand of PBS KIDS.
In quests, you jump by tapping the UP key or by pressing the SPACE key. You activate gadgets and go through doors by tapping the DOWN key. You go left by tapping the LEFT key, and go right by tapping the RIGHT key. Outside the questing area, the UP key moves your avatar away from the front of the screen, and the DOWN key moves your avatar towards the front of the screen. To go fast, press SHIFT+RIGHT/LEFT. For more movements, press the dance button on the bottom left of the screen. The LEFT and RIGHT keys work the same as in quests.
There are 4 areas: Grand Glade, Mount Snow, The Deep, and Bug Garden. There are 5 quests in each area, making a total of 20 quests to complete in the game. In quests, players explore an area to find objects/animals. Then, after you complete each quest, you may receive a reward.
Gadgets can be used to help with Quests Racing. They make getting around Kart Kingdom easier with all the High Lands and Rock and Racing.
Powerups are things you can use in the Kart Kingdom Games Tent. The powerups will help you with the game, or they can unlock bonus features. You can craft these powerups by using the bits from games by playing those games.
Icons are buttons that are on the screen in Kart Kingdom. Some are speecebubbles, emoji icons, and different moves like jumping, hopping on the rear wheels or front wheels, and just doing the KK "jig".
Landmarks are all over Kart Kingdom. Landmarks include places like The Big Mushrooms in Bug Garden and the Pond by the Game's Tent in Grand Glade.
Bits can be found in Quests, Racing, and earned in games. You can use them for crafting Karts, wheels, stickers, gadgets, and Power-ups.
Racing is a game feature in Kart Kingdom in which players race against Kart Kingdom characters and earn rewards such as Bits, Stickers, Kart Parts, Hair, and Wheels.
There are a few characters in Kart Kingdom. K, CC, Gus, Harley, and Drew. Characters from PBS KIDS, such as Dee, Del, and Dot, also appear in the game, as well as special characters like Abby, who comes only during the Back to School Event. The racing game also has its own set of characters.
Players can only chat using pre-made phrases and emotes. Sometimes new phrases are added. However, players can type freely on the blog. The moderators choose what comments will be posted, however, and nothing mean or profane will be posted. However, lots of users beg for “free chat,” and every time, K has said no.
On September 9, 2020, a video was uploaded to the PBS KIDS YouTube channel announcing the game's closure, despite its perceived success.
The day after, an article was posted to the PBS website titled "When Your Child's Favorite Media Goes Away", written by Eric Rasmussen. The article discusses how to help kids cope with such an occasion, in light of Kart Kingdom ending.
"If we, as adults, can have trouble dealing with the disappointment of media friends leaving us (think the last season of 'Friends', 'Seinfeld', or even the season finale of your favorite current show), imagine how our kids feel when one of their media companions goes away. For example, the pbskids.org game, Kart Kingdom, will be retiring soon." the article states, addressing the game directly. After the announcement, many of the game's developers posted their passports on Twitter, and some even went so far as to say it was one of their favorite projects to work on.
The blog's activity for the rest of the month, leading up to the closure on September 30, was all dedicated to the event. The final event allowed players to create and print out "passports" of their Kart Kingdom accounts, and a contest was held to decide on a statue design to leave behind in Grand Glade. Within the final two days, many items were rereleased as secret codes and the Party Room from the New Years event reappeared. Three videos were released during the weeks leading up to the end of the game. On the final day (September 30), Chris Bishop released an art book for the game. After the game ended, all Kart Kingdom sites redirected to a site saying it ended, with a picture of the statue taken long after the game’s closure in-universe. This can be inferred by the new shrubbery around the area. K’s hat is also left on the statue. However, the servers didn’t actually shut down at midnight, and, unlike other MMOs, it did not automatically exit players from the game at the time of closure. The last people in the Pine server were Akarin and okcookiez, at approximately 12:35 AM PST, on October 1, 2020.