Disney Offers Pirates-Based MMO to Casual Gamers

LAS VEGAS -- Disney is demonstrating its new Pirates of the Caribbean Online game, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMO) aimed at casual gamers, for Mac and PC at CES. The game is built within the world of the popular film franchise of the same name, and utilizes the same engine powering ToonTown, Disneyis online world for children.

In Pirates, players not surprisingly take on the role of a pirate, and interact with the characters from the movie. Your goal as a player is to advance in level, increase your weapon skills, and rise in notoriety. You increase your skills with hand-to-hand combat (think sabres), learning and using Voodoo, and performing quests. The game also utilizes pirate ships, which can be crewed by your friends, and hunt down other player-controlled ships and corrupt Navy ships.

The game environment currently encompasses much of the Caribbean Sea, with real-world islands that have been made around the moviesi themes. Players can interact with NPCs, get quests, form in-game guilds, gamble by playing poker and blackjack with in-game money, and itis even possible to cheat -- and to get caught cheating (beware having your Ace of Hearts be the second one in play).

Swashbuckling pirate fighting in Pirates of the Caribbean Online
Image courtesy of Disney

While much of this sounds like any other MMO, Disney wanted to make sure Pirates was as accessible as possible. To do this, they took some of the simulation-like elements found in hard(er)-core MMOs out of the game. For instance, when you die, you get taken to prison, where you can simply kick your way out (as in the movie). No having to get your body back, and you can just get your sunken ship repaired, even though it was sunk by your opponent.

In addition, characters are not tied to specific servers, and can hop back and forth from server to server to run with friends as needed. The game also allows players to instantly travel to each other once they have learned how to teleport via a Voodoo quest, taking out any tedium associated with long travel-times in-game.

We asked the developers on-hand at CES demonstrating the game why the emphasis on casual gamers, and they pragmatically said, "Because weire Disney." In addition, with the broad appeal of the movie franchise, the company felt that a casual environment would better match the moviesi fan base.

Disney has also lowered the barrier to entry with the game by making it downloadable-only. There is no retail box to buy, and thus zero up-front cost to try the game, and users can play the game as long as they want for free. Rather than limiting the trial account by time, you simply canit progress past a certain point without a subscription.

Speaking of subscriptions, Disney is also making Pirates a bit less expensive than other MMOs like World of Warcraft. The first month is US$4.95, and subsequent months are priced at $9.95. The company is also selling subscription cards for those (casual gamers) who might not feel comfortable putting their credit cards online.

The game launched for Mac and Windows in October of 2007, and Disney plans on periodic content expansions that will be included in the subscription cost of the game. The Mac Observer will be reviewing the game in the coming weeks.