US: Disney kicks off DICE

Today’s social networking technologies and consumer offerings are direct descendants of ideas pioneered by Walt Disney, such as the theme park, according to Disney Interactive boss Steve Wadsworth.

Delivering a keynote speech at DICE in Las Vegas Wadsworth said, "Walt Disney and The Walt Disney Company have always understood that shared experiences make people more engaged and invested. When Disneyland opened in 1955, it was the first truly interactive shared experience. Digital platforms of today are the same. They offer a shared, richly interactive social experience."

But Wadsworth was keen to stress that understanding how modern entertainment works, and how consumers engage with media, is still a steep learning curve for Disney, most especially with young consumers.

"The largest segment of our audience is kids. These consumers have different expectations from their predecessors. For example, they absolutely expect to be able to take a picture and share it immediately. They expect levels of functionality, interactivity and connectivity that are incredibly high. What they expect they should have is well ahead of what actually is. They want what they want when they want it."

He said Disney had worked hard to listen to kids, dumping a policy of ignoring their ideas for games; bringing customer service and game development closer together, mining data ferociously and, perhaps most importantly, connecting their franchises across multiple platforms.

The keynote ‘Redefining the Interactive Audience’, focused on the fundamental change in the entertainment business model. "Traditionally we acquired consumers through marketing, monetized them, and then engaged them in the entertainment experience," he said. "Now we have to acquire them through non-traditional marketing methods, before we engage them in the experience, and only then do we monetize through subscriptions, or virtual goods, or extra levels. The old model is still dominant, and that’s great, but the new model is increasing its influence.

"Under this model, capturing the attention of the consumer requires simplicity and accessibility. We have to make everything incredibly convenient or the kids will go elsewhere. We are learning all the time how to get rid of obstacles. The weird reality is that these same consumers will travel and line up for hours to enjoy Disney experiences at our theme parks, but with interactive media, they have a very short threshold."

Wadsworth pointed towads Disney’s array of games, online portals and MMOs as evidence of the company’s seriousness in the games space. And although Disney was once seen as something of an outsider and underachiever in the games space, he reminded delegates of the company’s forthcoming products including a Cars MMO, a new Pirates of the Caribbean game, and Toy Story 3 as well as the unannounced fruits of Disney’s purchase of Marvel. He also pointed towards Disney’s history of adapting to new technologies, including the first audio synched cartoon, and the first full length animated movie.

Coming Soon: Full MCV interview with Steve Wadsworth.

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