The Walt Disney Co. is building on the success of one of its biggest movie hits and theme-park attractions by developing a new massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on "Pirates of the Caribbean."
The Walt Disney Internet Group division plans to go live with the broadband activity to coordinate with the theatrical premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in summer 2006.
This is the second such venture for Disney Online after the 2003 launch of "Disney's Toontown Online" as the first 3-D MMORPG created for kids and families.
"We've learned through our experience with 'Toontown' that the market for massively multiplayer online role-playing games can indeed reach beyond traditional gamers," said Ken Goldstein, executive vp and managing director at Disney Online. "'Pirates of the Caribbean' is the perfect franchise for our second commercial effort in this arena."
The Walt Disney Internet Group's VR Studio is designing the game to be filled with action and humor as players personalize their own pirate character and form their own crews to engage in swashbuckling adventures, most of which involve battles against other crews or the evil undead.
It is undetermined which, if any, of the actors in the movies will have a presence in the game.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush, grossed more than $305 million domestically in 2003.
Pricing for "Pirates of the Caribbean Online" has not been finalized. "We expect it to be in line with 'Toontown,' which is $9.99 a month," Goldstein said. "Subscription is a very powerful business model, but the final decision has not been made yet."
According to the underlying intellectual property, there are more than 3,000 islands in this alternative reality, which Goldstein said provides ample scope for missions that will provide hours of entertainment.
"There are many, many islands to visit in the archipelago, and we hope you will visit them all," he said. "There are plenty of characters to meet and plenty of adventures to be had."
Goldstein added that the game's content will be suitable for "'tweens" and adults, similar to the ride and the PG-13 movie.
Among its other offerings, Disney Online already operates "Disney's Blast" for kids and has announced "Playhouse Disney Preschool Time Online" for preschoolers.
"The whole point of what we're doing is a continuum of product in an age-branded strategy," Goldstein said. "We're making a substantial investment in online digital content. We believe in broadband."