Friday, May 23, 2008

DGamer: Disney Fine-Tunes Its Cross-Media Integration

Last week, in conjunction with the opening of the newest Narnia film, Prince Caspian, and its spin-off Nintendo DS Game, Disney launched the much anticipated DGamer -- a social network / virtual world aimed at tying together Disney's various digital gaming platforms (console, handheld, online) and creating a more cogent gamer community around Disney's properties. The VW can be accessed through both DS Wifi and online, and represents the "first integrated online community of its kind to [provide such a service] on multiple platforms." According to the press release:
DGamer, which leverages the community technology of Disney.com, allows players to log into their DS and online accounts to create and customize a unique 3-D avatar and persistent profile. A wide variety of outfits, hats, eyewear and accessories are available to choose from, including special Disney-themed costumes, such as Buzz Lightyear, Tinker Bell and familiar Disney theme park mouse ears. Kids can chat, view user profiles of their DGamer friends, and post high scores to leaderboards. In addition, players earn "honors" which represent what players have been rewarded when completing in-game missions. Honors can also trigger unlockables such as special gear for player's avatars, all of which transfer automatically between the DGamer Web site and the DGamer feature in DS games from Disney when users log in. For example, when playing The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, players can unlock Prince Caspian character costumes that can be worn by their DGamer avatar. Certain "honors" also unlock exclusive content in Nintendo DS games from Disney and within the DGamer channel online.

Although Prince Caspian is the first game to include the feature, the plan is to have it implanted in all future Disney DS games, including the upcoming Tinker Bell game, as well as its other online properties. To join, players must register online -- or use any existing Disney account -- and customize a 3-D avatar, which it will then use to interact with other players throughout the DGamer universe. Player stats will be tracked by DGamer servers, which will upload and store players' progress across a variety of games...along with a plethora of other player details and information I'm sure. While little mention has been made of how and what player information will be collected by DGamer, Disney has made sure to address parental concerns -- both within the design and PR of the VW:
Parents are also encouraged to play an active role in the DGamer community. By accessing parental controls at www.dgamer.com, they can specify the level of interactivity that kids have online and feel confident that their child's experience is age appropriate. For example, parents can choose between three chat levels for their kids' use by utilizing the familiar security features and infrastructure at Disney.com, which hosts the DGamer site. Kids can either communicate using a predetermined list of words and phrases called "Speed Chat," through modified free-form typing that blocks inappropriate language or suggestive phrases called "Speed Chat Plus," or via "Open Chat" which requires an exchange of a True Friend Code outside of the DGamer system. Disney.com employs several safety features to ensure all chat communication is moderated for safety.

As Earnest Cavalli pointed out on Wired Blog back in February, Disney has yet to address whether or not the service will include targeted advertising or other forms of embedded marketing (I suppose he means in addition to advertising Disney's own products), or whether microtransactions will play any role in the DGamer business model. But I agree with Cavalli's prediction that:
"If all of this sounds like a marketer's wet dream when it comes to targeting the under-13 set, you're getting the idea... I get the feeling that there are a long line of PR folks at the House of Mouse who are salivating over the possible revenue streams DGamer introduces.

Couldn't have said it better myself!

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