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Disney Can’t Please Everyone All the Time

A player of one online game has turned Disney's phasing out of the game into a personal mission to keep it going.

Chris Queen


August 29, 2013 - 7:00 am
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Toontown Online

Disney’s reach extends out far beyond what most people think of – theme parks, movies, television, merchandising. For years, the company has hosted dozens of online games, which have expanded into apps for smart phones and tablets as mobile devices have grown in popularity. One game in particular has created a stir – not because of content or new technology, but because Disney is shutting it down.

Disney announced last week that it is closing down the decade-old Toontown Online video game on September 19.

Toontown, in which members form teams to fight evil robots, will close on Sept. 19, according to a website announcement. The $9.95-a-month game, which Disney called the first massively multiplayer online title for kids and families, made its debut in June 2003. Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow will also close.

“We are shifting our development focus toward other online and mobile play experiences, such as Club Penguin and a growing selection of Disney Mobile apps,” the Burbank, California-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

The changes leave the $7.95-a-month Club Penguin as the only so-called virtual world operated by Disney. The site, acquired in 2007, is the largest of its kind, according to the company, which is asking players to move there.

One Toontown Online user simply won’t stand for it. Sara Luchsinger of Wisconsin has written CNN and formed an online petition to save the game.

Luchsinger says she joined in 2005 when her 10-year-old goddaughter encouraged her to join. She’s been hooked ever since, and even joined a group for adult users. Although the game is family-oriented, she says there is lots to appeal for all ages and she appreciated the ‘sense of community’ the game provided. When she heard about the game’s closing, she decided to campaign for it to stay open. Luchsinger said she doesn’t plan on setting up new digs at Club Penguin.

‘There is nothing out there similar, so I am not sure what, if anything, I will do at this point,’ she said. ‘I have a feeling that the mobile world in which we live in is evolving so quickly that if a game will continue to live on, it has to be played in a mobile format. Toontown isn’t available for tablets or mobile phones, so I believe that the company is making the decision based on profits and platforms.’

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All Comments   (4)
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It's easy to be dismissive of a game geared towards children. It's much harder when you love a young child, and they love a game, to explain why Mickey Mouse and his friends are going away forever. They won't "live" there anymore. And they aren't moving anywhere we can visit online. They are just going to leave.

As my 7 year old said, upon being told the game was closing, "That's wrong. Don't they know there are lots of kids who love this game and who have spent a lot of time making their toons really strong so they can fight the cogs? And some kids, who don't want to fight cogs, can just go there to fish or race their car. . . ."

He also astutely pointed out that Club Penguin isn't anything at all like Toontown. From the mouth of a child. . . .

Good luck and Godspeed to sluchsinger - - she's singing our "toon".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Chris - As a writer, you understand that the headline is everything. I am a Disney aficiando and love the magic and mystique that Disney offers. But this game has some real magic that isn't found in any other MMO. It is one of the few games that I've encountered that players enjoy of all ages. Kids don't understand why they will never be able to play the game again after September 19th. This silly little game has taught children how to read, count, work as a team, and more. It is one of the few safe environments in online gaming. It isn't a violent game - no blood, guts or gore. Soldiers play it with their kids when they are fighting overseas. Grandparents play it with their grandchildren who live 1000's of miles apart. Parents play with their kids as an alternative to board or other video games. For many this online community is more than just the game and that community will live on no matter what happens with Toontown. While I understand that things have a shelf life, can you really blame us for trying to save something we love?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Old style MMOs are dying out, but for those who play on, they've become more social clubs than they ever were games. For my husband and I it was City of Heroes. We liked the community of people who played there. People were mostly courteous and the conversation was interesting. It even got political and religious with all sides being represented without getting overtly nasty on plenty of occasions, and 4it was intelligent. Players often planned a hosted large events on the server for anyone who showed up and took the time to join- parties and contests, region wide coordinated MOB smackdowns to prove that we could pull things off, boss raids in ways never intended just to prove to the devs that we could (a true test of community is random people working together out of the blue to break the server raids in carefully coordinated ways), there were several player coordinated and run PvP leagues and tourneys with drafts and events, players ran their own competing radio stations ...

The game wasn't growing, but neither was it losing ground. In fact, it still turned a profit for the company who ran it. However, they shut it down out of the blue with very little warning. It ran for a little over a decade. It was a nice virtual world while it lasted. Still, as you can see above, there was a lot of time and effort that people invested into the game to make it more than just a virtual shooting gallery. It really was a social club coordinated around those servers. But pulling the plug is like demolishing the club house, and that's what this lady is losing. Unlike most clubhouses though, you can't just pull up stakes and find a new building.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm still trying to deal with CoH shutting down. So many characters I want to keep playing. I never even got Knave o'Hearts (my Arachnos Widow) up to Hamidon-raid level so he could make sexually suggestive comments to some of the regulars there about how he was looking for tarts.

MOUT, Lord Malkor, Emerald Avenger, SERESpider, and several others... Virtue server
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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