Here is my blog from my newsletter this week. I would like to know how you feel about VMK?
How many of you know what VMK is? I sure didn‟t. Yes I had seen ads for it but I never delved into it to actually experience it. VMK is a free massively multiplayer online game run by Walt Disney Theme Parks and Resorts online. It is a virtual representation of Disneyland and Magic Kingdom theme parks, containing areas and mini games which are based on real park scenery and attractions. It was launched as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth promotional campaign to commemorate fifty years of Disney theme parks.
The next question you are probably asking is why I am I blogging about it? Disney has recently announced that they are planning to shut down the Virtual Magic Kingdom on May 21, 2008, due to VMK being meant as a limited time promotion for the Disneyland 50th Anniversary Celebration. Since this decision was made there have been thousands of players who are upset at this decision. There is the website www.savevmk.com which has developed a petition for VMK players to sign to show Disney that they should reconsider closing down VMK. According to the Orlando‟s Local 6 there have been 11,000 signatures so far protesting this decision by Disney.
From what I have gathered Disney did not expect VMK to achieve the success and popularity that it seems to have. The members of this community are of all ages and number in the thousands. VMK has allowed a community of Disney fans to have a safe and non-threatening environment to interact and play.
The real question seems to be why would Disney close VMK? Sure it was done as a promotion, but it seems that thousands of Disney fans use it. Isn‟t that truly the goal of Disney, to maintain the current level of Disney fans as well as to continue to create a new generation? I am not sure of the cost to run VMK, but I would venture a guess that Disney could well afford it. I know that Disney did purchase Club Penguin, a similar online gaming community, for an estimated $350 million, so that may have played a part in the decision to close VMK. Is the hope that VMK players will shift over to Club Penguin to play, which would increase Club Penguin‟s statistics? Probably, but they are not the same type of gaming experience.
My thought is why couldn‟t Disney offer VMK as a pay-for-play type of gaming? Sure many VMK members may not want to do that as this has been a free service. But what would Disney be out if they did make it a pay-for-play type of gaming experience? Have it set up for a month as a trial run and inform all VMK members that they will offer it as a pay service. If they don‟t enough people registered in the first month, then they can close it based on lack of interest. What happens though if thousands are willing to keep pay and keep it running? Then Disney would have two types of on-line gaming, a free service Club Penguin (although parts of it are a pay service), and a pay service, VMK.
To me this seems like a reasonable idea. If anything it is worth a shot for Disney, as they would be generating some money in return for the pay VMK. In a perfect world, Disney would listen to the thousands of members who would like it to continue as a free service, and keep it open as is. Unfortunately circumstances make that highly unlikely. It appears that another alternative is needed and hopefully a pay-per-service, while not the best solution, is just the one that might save VMK!