Image Credit: Togetherville

Rocket Engine

Image Credit: Rocket Pack/Rocket Engine

Two recent acquisitions point to an increased push into the social media world for Disney Interactive Media Group.  Togetherville, a social network for kids, and Rocket Engine, a web-based game development engine, provide Disney a unique opportunity to extend its reach in the social games market, in particular.

For the non-ultra-geeky, here’s the low down: Togetherville is a social network (like Facebook) for kids that parents control.  In fact, Togetherville is built on top of Facebook — parents create an account by signing in with Facebook, then allow specifically approved friends to join their kids’ “neighborhoods.”  Kids then have access to games, videos, comments, and most of the staple social networking features, but in an always-controlled environment.

Rocket Engine is a bit harder to characterize for the non-nerds.  It is, in short, a platform upon which Disney and others can build wicked awesome social games with very little early overhead.  The biggest boon derived from this platform is that, because it does not employ Adobe Flash, games can be played on almost any device, including Apples (iPads, iPhones, iPods, etc.) with no extra development time and resources required.

Another major benefit: because the games will be played via standard “browsers” (like Internet Explorer or Safari), there’s no App Store in the middle, meaning Disney controls pricing and profits. Yay Disney prices.

Rocket Engine was originally intended as a commercial starting point for aspiring game developers.  If this plan remains intact, it means Disney will have direct access to potential future acquisitions — the people making the games Disney wants to stick a DIMG sticker on and collect the profits from.

So what do these two acquisitions mean in general?  Primarily, Disney now owns one of the premier social networks for children (which is built atop the premier social network in the world), and it also owns the platform by which to create and provide wicked awesome social games for those kids.  These same games can also be provided on Facebook-proper for the older kids (and kids at heart) or any Disney website online and played on any device, from standard PCs to iPads to, well, who knows?  We may have Pixie Hollow on our watches before too long….

It also reinforces Disney’s general desire to continue its so far lackluster push into social media, and this is vital for it to remain as ingrained in popular culture as it always has been.

DIMG has so far struggled to reach profitability despite the high-profile acquisitions of properties like Club Penguin and Zynga competitor Playdom, resulting in the loss of many jobs and a refocusing of company efforts.  Time will tell whether these newest acquisitions do the Mouse any good in infiltrating the hearts, minds, and browsers of the public masses.

Contributed by: John DeLancey (NDH#48).  John is the Technology and Gaming Blogger.

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