Disney in uncharted waters with Pirates game
Disney Online will offer the legions of fans who have flocked to see Captain Jack Sparrow in movie theaters a chance to star in an original video game adventure for free with "Pirates of the Caribbean Online."
The massively multiplayer online game, slated to launch in the spring in conjunction with the May 25 theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, will bypass retail and be available via a free download at Pirates Online.
The game takes place in an alternate universe, with a new story arc that introduces Jolly Roger as a nemesis. Players must help Sparrow get his crew back together to find the Black Pearl and restore order. The story line will span hundreds of hours of gameplay, and Disney Online will launch free expansions for the game every two to three months.
Disney Online is selling advertising for this version of the game. There will be no ads or product placement within the game world.
Disney Online will offer consumers two ways to play the game, both of which will include a free electronic download (there will be no retail PC box version of the game at launch). Gamers can choose to play the free version of the game, which will incorporate about one-third of the game world and content. Gamers who want to upgrade to the full "Pirates Online" experience will be charged a US$9.95 monthly subscription, which offers such extras as more customisation options and characters and the ability to take part in tournaments and engage in player-to-player combat.
All the actors from the film, including Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, have granted Disney Online the use of their likenesses. The game will use voice-alikes for the original dialogue.
The unique aspect of the online world is that after players design their own playable avatar, such film characters as Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann will appear in cut scenes with the player's avatar, putting the gamer in the film experience.
Steve Parkis, vp premium content at Disney Online, said Disney regards this MMO game as the backbone of the franchise, because the game will expand and evolve for years, well beyond the release of the films and DVDs.
Although there are more than 100 MMO games in the global marketplace, only one, Blizzard Entertainment's "World of Warcraft," has truly crossed over to the mass market, with more than 8 million paying subscribers.