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News of Virtual Magic Kingdom’s (VMK) end brings protests and petitions

Latest: Saving Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom. 4/15/08

Update: There are a few sites out there using this unfortunate news to try and run some scams. From false petitions to copy cat sites that are pretending to rebuild VMK, please be careful and never provide any login or password information. Especially do not provide credit card information.

I never had a chance to log in to Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK) Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) and now with the news it will be shuttered in May, I probably never will. That’s too bad for me, but for the tens of thousands of active players and the hundreds of thousands who played casually, it’s the bad news they didn’t want to hear.

Rich summed it up eloquently in this comment:

Year of a Million Dreams? Making Dreams Come True? I bet many kids had nightmares last night because of this. VMK is a place that kids and adults have had fun together – much like Walt’s original plans for Disneyland – and I know because many’s the time I as an adult have had fun there, both with my tween-age son as well as by myself and by himself.

When there were Virtual Magic Kingdom quests, cards and pins at Walt’s original Magic Kingdom as well as the version of it in Orlando – and even VMK tie-ins at the Disney Rewards website – it was a perfect example of what Bob Iger is now calling The Disney Difference and what used to be referred to as Disney Synergy.

Instead of using your Disney Movie Rewards to have Disney real things shipped to you, your option was to also use those points you collected after buying Disney DVDs to “buy” virtual items which appeared in the VMK virtual world. Things Disney fans “bought” will magically disappear next month like an evil spell from a Disney villain.

Not only was VMK free to join and free to play, but it was free advertising for the Disney resorts and the other Disney online game sites. But Iger’s business model has apparently changed and now Disney wants to have paid subscribers on its online virtual worlds.

But why, if that is the case, does Disney feel the need to pull the plug on instead of converting it into a virtual world with an entry fee? After all, we are all used to paying admission when going to the Disney parks; why not the virtual versions of them, too? Did Disney feel it wasn’t getting enough long-term good will and free advertising for Disneyland and Walt Disney World?

Instead, now they’ve made kids and adults unhappy, taking away the bit of Disney park fun one can experience a bit of at home while dreaming of one day going to or returning to Disney’s real theme parks. This is Bad Show in my opinion.

My wife has suggested VMK fans all should hold one or more jazz funerals in VMK’s virtual New Orleans Square similar to how we do it in real life in the real New Orleans. VMK will be gone, but not forgotten.

And lingering in the back of people’s minds who might switch to Disney’s pay-for-play online games will be the dark thought that no matter how much fun Disney fans have at these virtual worlds, at some time in the future Disney will unexpectedly close these places down, too.

– Rich Koster (who, at the DisneyEcho eMuck, is also making some virtual magic of his own)

I too wonder why Disney hasn’t at least decided to try and switch to a pay-for-play system. I too wonder why Disney isn’t making some effort to continue this community somehow. There is a reality of running an online community that at some point it grows beyond the owner’s control and becomes their responsibility.

If you’re wondering the same or similar things, go visit one of the Save VMK fan sites and sign the petitions. One already has over 5000 signatures. If I had over 5000 people willing to pay to visit my site, I’d be pretty happy, let me tell you.