For Walt Disney Co., the task of opening a virtual version of Disneyland on the Web was relatively easy. Closing it, though, is proving to be quite a bit more difficult, thanks to the wrath of obsessive fans of Disney's theme parks, the Wall Street Journal reports.


In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Disneyland in 2005, Walt Disney launched a free online game called Virtual Magic Kingdom whose look and layout mimics Disneyland's. Users created avatars and explored the online park's various regions, such as Tomorrowland and Main Street; chatted with other users; and participated in online promotions that crossed over into real-life activities at the company's resorts in California and Florida.


Disney's notoriously obsessive fans got deeply into this. Using their online personas, fans of Virtual Magic Kingdom -- VMK to aficionados -- accumulated points by playing games and completing tasks inside the world. These points could then be used to buy in-game objects like animated hats, pins and furniture to decorate their virtual private rooms. Points could also be accumulated in the real world through purchases of Disney movie DVDs and the like.


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