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Disney combines Internet, game units

June 5, 2008 |  2:21 pm

Screen shot from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online For years, Disney has had a digital divide that's, pardon the pun, simply goofy.

Its video games have been licensed or developed by Disney Interactive Studios, which falls under Disney Consumer Products. Meanwhile, online games such as Toontown Online and Disney Pirates of the Caribbean were created by the Walt Disney Internet Group.

The division had more to do with legacy issues (console games were initially licensed products, just like toys or stuffed animals) than any deliberate business decision. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has long talked about uniting Disney's interactive media groups into one energy-drink-fueled division.

That day arrived yesterday, in the form of a letter obtained by PaidContent.org. In it, Iger said he would immediately combine the groups under a new unit, the Disney Interactive Media Group, to be headed by Steve Wadsworth, who was recently named Hollywood's top digital power broker. Graham Hopper, the executive vice president and general manager of Disney Interactive, will work with Wadsworth.

It's unclear how the consolidation will affect the 1,000 people who work for Disney Interactive, which is headquartered in Glendale, or the 1,700 people at the North Hollywood-based Internet group.

Disney spokesman John Spelich declined to comment on the consolidation, saying only, "Bob Iger's note speaks for itself."

No one knows what made Iger do this now. Company insiders point to the collaboration that produced last month's Nintendo DS version of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian game, which incorporated an online community dubbed DGamer. It was joint effort, in which the game group focused on the hand-held game, with the Internet group developing the online community. 

It made bringing the digital groups together seem a timely move -- and a no-brainer.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Pirates of the Caribbean Online screen shot courtesy of Walt Disney

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