Parks Associates Blog

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Disney vs. Residents of The Virtual Magic Kingdom

Only a few days after Disney Online announced the imminent closure of the online Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK) there are a number of petitions circulating to try and keep the worlds running. While the effort is commendable and indicative of how powerful virtual worlds have become, it is not going to happen. However, Disney is not entirely off the hook. The manner in which Disney is closing VMK will unravel much of the good will and support it gained from the current user base. Not to mention their parents.

Disney cannot be expected to run the Virtual Magic Kingdom forever. It was a celebratory, gracious, and deep offering to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland Theme Park. It was originally intended to run alongside the 18th month celebration from January 2005 to July 2006. VMK made it almost two years past its sell-by date. However, to expect Disney to maintain and support a service that was never built with a sustainable business model is unreasonable and uninformed. VMK was never built to be a long-term virtual world and to turn it into one would require an entirely new world, built to different standards, and constructed outside the existing VMK.
Disney is surely contemplating just such a virtual world and with the wealth of Disney IP available to fill a virtual world: even if done poorly, it would surely be a success.

However, Disney must have been losing a lot of money on VMK or the world was taking too much time and effort away from getting a new virtual world off the ground. How else can you explain dropping tens of thousands of users off the deep end? Virtual Magic Kingdom built a lot of good will for Disney. It helped establish the company in the virtual world space and gained a large following in the process. There are a lot of upset children, tweens, and parents glaring at Disney and asking why their world is being taken away from them. Disney’s remaining virtual world offerings in the youth-oriented space are popular and profitable, but do not capitalize on Disney’s IP lineup.
Toontown Online and Club Penguin both serve a younger demographic than the typical VMK resident and do not utilize the Disney IP library to engage users.

We realize the technology that VMK was built upon was licensed from
Sulake. We realize Sulake’s own Habbo Hotel virtual world has increasing relevance in the North American market and this could have sped up the VMK closure. We realize there are behind-the-scenes details unknown to all but Disney. Regardless, Disney needed an exit strategy; a plan to move these VMK residents into a new virtual world. A virtual world with an economy and a way to pay Disney for all the IP related digital content, social networking features and ways to interact with some of the world’s most recognized characters. Instead the company is looking back at angry residents searching for a new virtual world to inhabit. Hopefully Disney will come back soon with a new neighborhood for its fans to inhabit.

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Anonymous Social Network Web Design said...

Too bad VMK had to end..well I'm pretty sure that whatever Disney tries to venture out into will always be a huge success.

1:56 AM  

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