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Disney Sharpens Focus on Virtual Worlds

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SAN DIEGO Disney Online has created a studio to focus on its growing commitment to virtual worlds as well as games and online social communities.

The new group, Disney Online Studios, will include several of Disney Online's teams, including the creators of Disney.com XD and the company's virtual-reality studio that was responsible for Disney's Toontown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online.

Steve Parkis has been promoted to svp to lead the new group and reports to Paul Yanover, evp, managing director of Disney Online.

Yanover described the move as formalizing the efforts Disney Online has made in the virtual world space, including the acquisition of leading children's virtual world Club Penguin in the summer and the launch of Pirates Online.

"We have a lot of fabulous people, and we've put together a pretty robust portfolio, so this is us internally organizing around this space," Yanover said. "We really believe in virtual worlds, and this is another piece in our overall effort to really go after it."
 
Disney Online this week also announced a new online world, Pixie Hollow, based on Disney's Fairies franchise, which Yanover said was part of an effort to begin offering virtual worlds aimed at fans of specific Disney franchises.

"(Pixie Hollow) is definitely a little more targeted in that its core audience is young girls, which is different than the core audience of a Pirates Online (kind of world)," he said. "We're going to be doing a lot of things, and we don't look at them as being big or small; it's more trying to find what looks like a great opportunity and is going to be fun for our audience and then creating an experience that's accessible and really connects with that audience."

Disney Online will continue to look for opportunities to work with Disney Interactive Studios' video game division. But Yanover emphasized that when it comes to games, Disney Online Studios' efforts will focus more on building on the success the company has had with free casual games on Disney.com.

"Games are already a big part of Disney.com, and [they're] the No. 1 reason why kids and parents go to Disney.com, so you'll continue to see us develop that aspect of the site," Yanover said.