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When virtual worlds die

o Ian Lamont
21.05.2008 kl 22:18 |

Think pulling the plug on a relatively small and slightly aged social virtual world is easy? That's what Disney apparently thought, when it announced plans to shutter its free Virtual Magic Kingdom service. Even though the VMK userbase is small (just over one thousand were online when I checked this morning, and now almost 4000 are online at 7:30 in the evening, eastern time) they are extremely dedicated, and are taking news of the closure quite badly, according to the Wall Street Journal and other sources. There have been petitions, angry blog posts, and even a tiny real-world demonstration outside of Disney HQ.

 

Think pulling the plug on a relatively small and slightly aged social virtual world is easy? That's what Disney apparently thought, when it announced plans to shutter its free Virtual Magic Kingdom service. Even though the VMK userbase is small (just over one thousand were online when I checked this morning, and now almost 4000 are online at 7:30 in the evening, eastern time) they are extremely dedicated, and are taking news of the closure quite badly, according to the Wall Street Journal and other sources. There have been petitions, angry blog posts, and even a tiny real-world demonstration outside of Disney HQ.

I am not surprised. People don't just love social networks and virtual worlds, they come to depend on them, and the threat of losing access is extremely hard for some to bear. Second Life's adult residents griping over grid outages is nothing new, but even kids-oriented worlds can draw die-hard fans who have trouble letting go of these environments, as I found out when I blogged about Webkinz World's technical difficulties in December and January. The responses in the comments and email was remarkable -- parents and their kids lamented the apparent loss of avatars, virtual furniture, and social connections. A few even talked about joining a class-action lawsuit or starting boycotts.

I doubt Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom will get a reprieve, but the VMK experience is a lesson for Disney as it expands its virtual worlds strategy with Club Penguin and other projects. The moral of the story: When trying to build up a successful virtual world, consider some of the inevitable challenges associated with breaking it down.

Keywords: Internet  Software  
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