Walt Disney Corporate’s certainly busy buying up companies lately. First they officially took charge of Pixar, then Marvel, and now, according to the Washington Times, they’re preparing to buy Playdom for $563.2 million.
So what’s Playdom? If you’ve ever played a game on Facebook like Sorority Life or Social City, then you’ve used a Playdom product; Playdom makes many of the little games available for play on Facebook, MySpace, or fancier cell phones.
Playdom isn’t the only electronic/online property Disney’s snatched recently. Just a month ago it also purchased Tapulous, the maker of a popular iPhone music game, and in 2007 the Mouse House quietly bought out an online children’s hangout called Club Penguin.
At first I couldn’t really figure out how Disney thought it was going to make any money off its Playdom purchase. Playdom isn’t the only game maker for Facebook; the games I’ve most heard of/seen users playing, like Farmville and Mafia Wars, are creations of another company called Zynga.
On top of that, all Facebook games are free. The companies make their money from ad revenue and through slight monetary amounts users pay for additional game features. While I’m sure that’s enough to keep companies like Zynga afloat, I can’t see how that would strike an international conglomerate like Disney as anything other than small change and thus unworthy of notice.
My techie husband pointed out to me that Disney could do more with Playdom. They could use Playdom to launch Disney-themed games on Facebook. Also, the company advertises its Disney Go site as a popular online destination for kids, and can use Playdom’s resources to create more addictive games to further the site’s appeal.
Additionally, it might take advantage of its new ownership of a video game company to draw more developers under the Disney fold. Because video games sales have skyrocketed in the past decade amongst the plummet of DVD sales, the Playdom purchase does start to look like a shrewd financial decision.
Still, I think you can guess what I have to say about all of this. I don’t particularly care if Disney wants to own Playdom or not, but the buyout comes too close on the heels of the Miramax sale (which finalized, with the company going to a group of investors, earlier this month).
When I pull back and look at the image of Walt Disney Corp’s announcements this summer, I see a movie studio selling one of its film companies while at the same time starting work on a luxury homes community and spending millions to buy a video game company.
Let’s also look at the movies Disney’s doing its most to endorse. The House of Mouse isn’t ignoring “Tangled,” but its promotion for the animated film in the style of the movies for which the company became famous, pales in comparison to the attention it’s giving to “Tron Legacy” and “The Avengers.” Two live-action films, one of which is really being made by Marvel Studios and with which its new parent company has little involvement.
I know I can’t complain too much, because I am definitely excited about “The Avengers.” But I still can’t help feeling sad about Disney’s new focus. I know I’m futilely shaking my fist at this point, but I can’t let go of my image of Disney as a studio that brings me fairy tales. As long as the company keeps trying to sell itself that way (The Most Magical Place on Earth anyone?) maybe they should start thinking about what all their recent corporate activity might be doing to that image.