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A Famous Mouse Goes Virtual

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[ Business]

When Walt Disney said “It all started with a mouse,” he didn’t mean the optical type with a scroll wheel.

Forget about flying to Orlando or battling the summer heat amid a throng of thousands of tourists packing the Magic Kingdom theme park. Walt Disney World quietly opened beta testing of its Virtual Magic Kingdom online world recently.

The multiplayer online game allows visitors to create a boy or girl character, outfit it with various costumes and hairstyles, and gain access to a free dedicated guest room within the world.

As is typical of these multiplayer games, the more time spent in the world hanging out and playing games earns the players credits toward purchasing additional rooms and furnishings.

The company hopes visitors will spend plenty of time online in the Virtual Magic Kingdom. Disney, one of the most recognized entertainment brands in the world, has found its desired demographic spends more and more time online. That’s less time exposed to traditional marketing and advertising efforts.

Games based on well-known rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or the Jungle Cruise exist in the virtual world. But playing these games earns the player credits. Veterans of visits to the Disney theme parks know that only rarely does the real world counterpart give things away to tourists.

But what Disney wants to give away here is a safe and interactive user experience, under the auspices of its brand name and patrolled by Cast Members to maintain the kid-friendly environment. The Virtual Magic Kingdom certainly won’t be Neal Stephenson’s Black Sun, but it should be an interesting place to visit.

That is assuming the company supports it well and gives users a compelling experience that drives return visits, of course.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

A Famous Mouse Goes Virtual
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