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Playhut opens kids' virtual world

The real-world toy maker joins Mattel and Hasbro in catering to children online.

Correction: This blog initially misstated the day of the announcement. It is Tuesday.

More toy makers are joining the virtual worlds' fray. Playhut, a toy company known for making physical play structures like inflatable fire engines or playhouses for kids, is trying its hand at online virtual worlds for the 6 years and older set.

On Tuesday, the company said it launched two online worlds--one for boys and one for girls--under the brand Kraze. The free sites enable members play games, dress up virtual characters and chat with friends--once parents send a permission slip via e-mail to the site.

Playhut has stiff competition online, however. Rival toy brands Mattel and Hasbro run online game sites for kids that are among the top 15 most-visited among children, according to research firm ComScore. Mattel's Barbie brand also recently opened a new virtual world for girls that is pegged to a line of MP3 player dress-up dolls.