Disney to launch more massively multiplayer games

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Walt Disney Co. sees launching more online so-called massively multiplayer games as part of a strategy to entertain kids wherever they go, Chief Executive Bob Iger said on Monday.

Disney, whose Mickey Mouse brand is a household name around the world, aims to reach a new generation of kids and young adults who are as likely to be clutching digital music players and watching online videos as sitting in front of the television.

"We plan to build more virtual worlds like "Pirates" based on a broad range of our properties," Iger told attendees of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, referring to a Web game based on its "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

"You can imagine living in Buzz and Woody's toy universe," he added, recalling Disney Pixar's computer animated hit feature film "Toy Story."

Thousands of people can play on the Web at once in massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs, which essentially never end. Popularized by games such as "Ultima Online," many are based on medieval or science-fiction themes that attract male players.

But in recent years, virtual worlds such as Second Life, where big corporations including Dell Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. have built virtual businesses, have attracted a broader and older audience.

Reuters operates a full-time news bureau in Second Life.

The announcement was part of Iger's presentation at the show about a wholesale revamp of Disney.com. It launched an MMO based on its "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies franchise.

"Kids can go online and live the life of pirates," Iger said.

Other features of the redesigned Disney.com include a function that lets users customize the page according to their age group or gender. One selection, for instance, creates a page that features Disney characters that appeal to boys.

Online entertainment will also be for sale, rental or streamed for free, Iger said.

An online video player also figures prominently on most pages. One feature, called Disney Xtreme Digital, lets users personalize favorite Disney content and watch and share videos, communicate with friends, listen to music and play games.

"We are witnessing an explosion of media, and Disney is both reaping the benefits of that explosion and acting as a catalyst by take a technology-friendly approach," Iger said.

Among the top U.S. media companies, Disney has been one of the most responsive entertainment companies to work with the technology industry. Its ABC TV network was the first to make some primetime programs available free to view online.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer Inc., joined the Disney board through the acquisition of digital animation hits-factory Pixar.



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