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Disney’s got game for broadband

Mar 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Hoping to recover from a series of devastating public embarrassments, The Walt Disney Internet Group is planning to make its broadband entertainment debut later this year by launching a first-of-its-kind high-speed gaming service.
The new online destination, which will be called Toon Town, will feature an interactive game, complete with 3-D graphics, that can be played by several users at one time. To fund the broadband concoction during a stormy advertising climate, the company is planning to charge Toon Town users a subscription fee.
While the Walt Disney Internet Group hasn’t arrived at a launch date for Toon Town, they are hoping the service will be ready for action before year-end.
The high-speed amusement creation will be housed within the Disney.com site, where it will share space with the group’s more pedestrian Game Zone offerings that are designed to be played on computers connected to the Internet via slower dial-up connections.
The forthcoming broadband game is being devised at a time when entertainment studios’ strategies for delivering high-speed PC-based entertainment are slowly beginning to gel.
Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment has initiated some preliminary internal discussions about the future launch of its hush-hush Moviefly broadband-based film-download site. Representatives from SPDE and affiliated interactive content development company Mixed Signals have met to hammer out plans for Moviefly’s long-anticipated introduction. In addition, Disney will soon begin a high-speed sports news service called My SportsCenter, which is modeled after the ESPN television program that shares part of its moniker.
For Disney, Toon Town and My SportsCenter present opportunities to resuscitate the studio’s struggling Internet business. Last week, the company flip-flopped several times in a sequence of public retractions and equivocations about whether it would continue to operate its beleaguered Go.com general-interest consumer Web portal.
Earlier this year, Disney announced that the unprofitable online search tool would shutter its operations and lay off 400 employees. At first glance, the announcement appeared to mark a merciful act of euthanasia for the portal, which had been bullied last year into disbursing about $21.5 million to rival search engine Goto.com to settle a trademark infringement dispute. But last week, Go.com decided to maintain its site, albeit with a redesigned Web page that routes traffic generated by users’ search queries to former adversary Goto.com’s site.
In explaining the about-face, Disney spokeswoman Michelle Bergman said, “Go.com is officially closed. What’s in its place is a page that’s a bridge. It’s a completely automated page. It is a conduit to either Goto search results or other sites.”