Club Penguin is now Disney's Club Penguin. The Walt Disney Company has announced its acquisition of the successful, snow-laden virtual world for kids, as part of its stated objective of "establishing clear leadership in the kids and families online virtual worlds space around the globe."
PaidContent.org is reporting the acquisition to the tune of $350 million up-front
, with the opportunity to earn out an additional $350 million by 2009.
"This acquisition is consistent with our strategy of leveraging technology to create and deliver high-quality entertainment around the world and our commitment to investing our capital to generate growth and value for our shareholders," said Bob Iger, Disney president and CEO.
"We have been actively searching for an organization that not only shares our values and concerns for children, but also has the ability and desire to help us bring Club Penguin to more children throughout the world. We've found that partner in Disney," said Lane Merrifield, one of Club Penguin's three founders.
Continued Merrifield: "As a former employee of Disneyland, I've always had a great respect for what Walt created. When he first envisioned Disneyland, he wanted to create a safe place that he and his daughters could enjoy. In the process of creating Club Penguin, we shared that passion and often pulled from Walt's vision in the hope of creating a unique place online that we would be comfortable letting our own children visit."
Disney's Club Penguin will retain the original URL
and its home base in Kelowna, British Columbia. The company's three founders, Lane Merrifield, Dave Krysko and Lance Priebe, will join Disney and continue as Club Penguin senior management; Merrifield will also become an EVP of The Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG), reporting to WDIG President Steve Wadsworth.
"Club Penguin is going to continue to exist as is... The experience will not change at all. It will continue to evolve." Iger said. "We really don't intend to get in the way of that or do anything by virtue of the way we own it."
With the help of WDIG resources, though, Club Penguin's poised to go international, with plans to create versions in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, as WDIG and Club Penguin management aim to integrate Club Penguin into the Disney-connected entertainment network over time.
[Further coverage of virtual world news, as well as a comprehensive atlas to the multitude of online worlds, is available at new CMP Game Group site Worlds In Motion, from which this story is cross-posted.]