Way back in 2005, Disney (DIS) opened a free online game/virtual world called Virtual Magic Kingdom. The site, released primarily to celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, took off, and within a year Disney announced that users had created 1 million avatars for the virtual playland.
“This has unleashed a loud outcry from VMK patrons, and some of them are throwing themselves in front of Disney’s virtual wrecking ball. One slick Web site created to help save VMK has gathered nearly 20,000 signatures on its online petition, while blogs maintained by the Disney faithful continue to decry the company’s move.”
Disney says it’s shutting down the site because it had always planned to, and there’s not a whole lot of traffic. Not a coincidence: Disney has spent a lot of time and money creating or buying other virtual worlds and wants to point users to those other worlds — which aren’t free.