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Conference Wrap-Up - Virtual Worlds 2007: The Future Of Gaming?
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Conference Wrap-Up - Virtual Worlds 2007: The Future Of Gaming?

April 23, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

One of the more interesting examples of cross-world promotion is Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK). VMK, originally conceived as part Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, was found to be so successful that nearly two years and over two million characters later, it remains a popular destination for teens and tweens.

Each avatar receives a guest room and the kids have proven to be very creative. They have baseball leagues even though there’s no way to swing a bat in-world! Roger Holzberg, VP/Creative Director of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, warns that one has to be open to brand mixing when kids are allowed to build their own rooms with any virtual items they desire.

These items can be gotten in-world, but the most valuable items are from outside VMK. One pair of virtual green flip-flops eventually sold on eBay for $1020. Through various quests, the activities on VMK integrate with those in the theme parks.

Roger Holzberg Reaches Out With Virtual Magic Kingdom

What was the impetus for creating Virtual Magic Kingdom?

Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK) came out of a desire to extend our brand relevancy into the teen/tween market. Traditionally, the Disney brand begins to fall off for boys at about 9 or 10 years old and girls a bit older. Those older kids tend to be attracted to our diverse and exciting theme park products once they know what's available to them, but until VMK we had no real channel to talk to them. Tweens don't really watch TV commercials or read print ads; their channel of choice is the internet.

Now we have them playing in our brand, playing in a world that they think is cool, for over 80 minutes per day on average. As a parent of two teenagers, I like to say "teens and tweens don't usually determine where a family takes a vacation, but they definitely determine where a family does not take one," and that's where VMK comes in. The majority of our players tell us that due to playing VMK, they are more likely to go to a Disney theme park.

Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom

How does Disney merge virtual activities with real-world activities?

For us, VMK is a larger play cycle than just an online game. Guests can play VMK for free online, then get excited about our theme parks. Once they're at Disneyland or Disney World, we can give them free rewards to use when they go home to the game, where they can show off their exclusive virtual items only available at the parks. Our goal is to drive guests from our virtual world to our real theme parks and back again.

We have a number of different types of quests, some of which are completely online, some completely in-park, and some that bridge the two. The highest conversion rates are on our web 1uests, which begin in the game and extend out into other websites; our completion rate on many of these exceeds 90%.

We also have quests that can be printed at home then played and redeemed in our theme parks, as well as quests that are completely in-park. As a reward for completing quests in-park, we give guests real-world trading cards with codes to redeem for VMK virtual rewards.

We keep the content and format of these varied, from single-attraction quests that entertain guests while they're in-queue to quests that span entire lands and even multiple theme parks. Families typically play more than one quest at a time, with the whole family participating in answering questions.

What was VMK’s strategy to reach the tween market?

Our senior brand leaders at Disney allowed us to be "market" vs. "marketing" driven - and really let us build the world for our targeted audience. Tweens told us they didn't want the "Fab 5" (Mickey, Minnie, etc.) characters in VMK, so they aren't there; they told us "no parades", so there are none.

We launched with a threshold of entertainment and games, diverse interactive versions of classic attractions like Pirates (as a multi-player battle game), Jungle Cruise (a photo safari) and Haunted Mansion (a ghost catching game), then gave players the ability to build out their own rooms, spaces, and rides with props and items bought (with free credits) or acquired through quests or promotions.


All warned that virtual worlds were just beginning, but that with research coming from groups like the First Opinions Panel in Second Life, the first focus group of Second Life avatars, marketers would soon understand strategies for linking their brands to interactive experiences.

In the meantime, 3D social environments like Virtual Laguna Beach continue to encourage more and more users to become daily visitors or residents. As these virtual worlds become more prevalent, perhaps then would there be more business applications. For the speakers, the vision of the future seemed bright and the audience, for its part, seemed intrigued.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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