Found on another board "Something very exciting from Disney is coming to a computer near you, and it is free! Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom is a multi-player game which you can access starting May 5th for free online and experience in virtual-reality Disneys 11 theme parks around the world right at home on your own computer! Even better: If you've already bought or will buy certain souvenEARS when you're on vacation at a real Disney theme park, you'll be able to use those things as props in the virtual reality game to help you play better online! And if one is to believe USA Today's version of the news report, online game players of "Virtual Magic Kingdom" will be able to "earn virtual points that can be redeemed for T-shirts and other goodies at the actual parks." Note, however, that USA Today is the only newspaper (online or not) with those particular details... All the other news reports do not mention earning points redeemable for free souvenEARS, so perhaps take that part with a grain of salt. Quoting from the Disney press release: An interactive computer game, called "Virtual Magic Kingdom," will be launched May 5 on the Disney Web site, www.disney.com. Players will be able to visit the virtual parks, design their own creations, accumulate points and status and even link their real-world Disney experiences to the game. For example, if you buy certain Disney merchandise, you'll be able to type a code number in and have the item show up as a prop in the game. The Associate Press has more details: "It's really a vehicle to link people to the theme park when they're not at the theme park," said Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. From an article about this in USA Today: As part of an 18-month global campaign that kicks off on May 5, Disney will roll out an interactive, multiplayer game called "Virtual Magic Kingdom." It aims to provide a virtual visit to Disney's five global resorts and 11 theme parks to anyone with an Internet connection. The target: "tweens" ages 8 to 12 and young teens. Visitors will be able to play free online games based on real attractions, such as the Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise. They'll also be able to chat, create their own avatars, or graphic icons representing real-life Web surfers in cyberspace, and earn virtual points that can be redeemed for T-shirts and other goodies at the actual parks. The article goes on to say: To reach kids and teens to promote Disneyland's 50th anniversary this year, Walt Disney Co. will use one of the hottest and most controversial gimmicks in the media business: "advergaming." Advergaming is when companies put ad messages in Web-based or video games. Sometimes the entire game amounts to a virtual commercial for a TV show or product. Sometimes advertisers sponsor games; sometimes they buy ad space integrated into them. The online arcades put up by advertisers that include Disney, Viacom's Nickelodeon and even the U.S. Army rival titles from the $10 billion video game industry in entertainment value and high-tech expertise. But ad critics such as Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy decry them as "digital infomercials" that blur the lines between content and commercials and often collect data on consumers playing the games. "These are not just harmless games. It's part of the brainwashing of America," Chester says. [...] The goal: push kids to urge their parents to visit a Disney park during the anniversary promotion that also includes the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland on Sept. 12. "We hope it becomes a real hangout for preteens and teens," said Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, during a recent news conference about anniversary-marketing plans. Jeff Logsdon, managing director at investment banker Harris Nesbitt, says Disney's strategy "is clearly a clever way to engage with a key part of their target market. Kids 10 years old and younger have really grown up with the Internet." Forrest Research predicts advergaming will grow into a $1 billion business this year. As marketers try to target kids and elusive Gen Y consumers, Madison Avenue is waking up to the fact that Webwise younger consumers like video games and disdain pop-ups, banner ads and other less-subtle forms of online advertising. And rather than get a kid's attention for just 30 seconds with a TV commercial, advergames can capture them for minutes or hours. "If a kid likes a game, they'll play it 15 times," says Tim Spengler, executive vice president of media services company Initiative. "Companies are asking 'What's my game strategy?' " But companies wanting to create successful advergames have to be careful about the quality of the game experience, says Michael Goodman, senior analyst at the Yankee Group. "The key is to remember that it's a game first and an ad second. If it's a good game, consumers will recognize they're being sold. But they won't care," he says. "