Disney applying lessons of Club Penguin, prepping more Pirates

DICE 2010: Interactive label president reveals Elite Penguin Force: Herbert's Revenge for DS, describes learning from subsidiary's pro-customer approach; Armada of the Damned detailed.


LAS VEGAS--Last night at the DICE Summit's opening ceremonies, Disney Interactive Media Group president Stephen Wadsworth gave a keynote address titled "Redefining the Interactive Audience." Besides outlining his company's vision for expanding its market share, he laid out the top Disney games for the coming year. Four were known of--Tron Evolution, Split/Second, Epic Mickey, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned--and a fifth was revealed for the first time.

"Fancy some more loot?"

First off, Wadsworth held up the previously announced Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned as an example of the kinds of cross-media properties Disney's game arm wants to pursue. As its name implies, it will be the latest interactive spin-off of Disney's megasuccessful Pirates of the Caribbean films. In development at Propaganda Games (Turok) for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, the action role-playing game is expected this fall.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned will not tie in to the fourth film in the series, subtitled On Stranger Tides. (Due in 2011, it is based on the book of the same name and will star Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.) Instead, according to Wadsworth, it will "use the original mythology and background of the first Pirates of the Caribbean [film]," which concerned an undead pirate crew seeking to break a curse.

Of course, the Pirates of the Caribbean films were inspired by the eponymous Disneyland ride. Ironically, Wadsworth sees massively multiplayer online games like Pirates of the Caribbean Online as the game equivalent of theme parks. He also called out Disney's suite of kid-focused casual MMOGs, including Toon Town Online, Pixie Hollow, the upcoming Pixar-inspired World of Cars, and the popular Club Penguin.

Club Penguin is returning to the DS.
Club Penguin is returning to the DS.

Indeed, the popularity of Club Penguin--which Disney bought in 2007 for $350 million--has led to the development of a new DS spin-off of the series, which Wadsworth also announced. Titled Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force: Herbert's Revenge, it is a sequel to the 2008 DS game Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force, which has sold over 1.5 million units.

In development at DS specialty studio 1st Playable Productions, Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force: Herbert's Revenge will introduce new minigames but will retain its predecessor's overall mission-driven single-player campaign. Like the older game, it will let players upload coins earned in the game directly to their online Club Penguin account, where they can be used to buy virtual goods. So far, more than 1 billion coins have been uploaded from the DS Club Penguin game to the Club Penguin site itself.

Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force: Herbert's Revenge will also have interactivity with an upcoming Club Penguin iPhone game, promised Wadsworth. He explained, "You may start a story on your DS and then complete it on the iPhone. ... [These] multiple extended experiences will let players...engage in an integrated ecosystem."

However, Club Penguin has affected the Disney organization beyond filling its real-world coffers with coins. The site's emphasis on customer service and taking input from players has rubbed off on the larger organization.

"Customer service is a key aspect of Club Penguin," explained the executive. "All the customer service is done in-house, and people have spent 20 to 30 minutes on one customer service call."

As a big media company, Disney could not accept unsolicited ideas due to licensing rights. For Toon Town, the company outsourced all customer service support and would auto-reject any unsolicited ideas. Now, as a result of Club Penguin's success, Disney's interactive division does accept ideas from customers. The approach is also being applied to console games, which Wadsworth hopes will pay a dividend down the road by instilling brand loyalty into young consumers who will buy Disney products for years to come.

"Interactive entertainment has never been more robust, either for creators or consumers," said Wadsworth in conclusion. "A new model is emerging, but something won't change: a shared experience, a great story, and great entertainment."

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Avatar image for Noahthereviewer

Kingdom Hearts and Club P are OK. Hopefully Pirates can pull off an open-world RPG that isn't GTA-grotesque.

Avatar image for ginop73

i pray each and every day that they can somehow pull off the pirates game to be some sort of gta or red dead open world of pirates.

Avatar image for insanitycheck6

Spoiler test before - [spoiler] This tells you what will happen [/spoiler] - after spoiler

Avatar image for Marcusraitor

The Best Game that disney Have Is Kingdom Hearts and is made by square i hope disney do something like that in the future.

Avatar image for gskywalker09

I'm just looking forward to the new Tron game!! :D

Avatar image for greenarcher02

it's a collaboration between disney and square enix

Avatar image for wrekk8

kingdom hearts isnt a disney game. its a square enix game with disney tie ins

Avatar image for IkedaTeramusa

Ummm the new Kingdom Hearts for PSP is due out.. what July? Don't get greedy.

Avatar image for Skelad

To the person below: if they haven't announced a new Kingdom Hearts game, it isn't coming out anytime soon. I don't see why they'd make a new Aladdin game, given how old the film is now.

Avatar image for Kleeyook

How could we forget about Kingdom Hearts and Aladdin? Those two are the only good Disney's games to date. :(

Avatar image for Sweet_Genocide

Tron Evolution is probably gonna be really good, if you're a fan of the series but Pirates is gonna fail hard.

Avatar image for iDefinition

Disney mutually sucks. Also, for the record, I've once played Club Penguin and Disney pretty teared it apart. Now it sucks.

Avatar image for K_56

Ladiesman, you're forgetting about Kingdom Hearts. It's the only good game they ever made unless you're not counting it since all disney did was let square use their characters

Avatar image for Generic_Dude

Ahh, Disney... anyone else out there remember those halcyon days when Disney could do something other than milk elderly cows?

Avatar image for mariostar0001

Not a game I'd consider picking up. :P

Avatar image for Angel848

Sadly I agree. Would be nice to see a decent Pirates of the Caribbean game though.

Avatar image for afsari123

@ Ladiesman17 Roger that :P

Avatar image for pizzaboysam

Can't agree more Ladiesman17

Avatar image for Ladiesman17

Disney = SUCKS @ making great games...