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Disney puts emphasis on gaming

The company creates a business unit focused on the interactive gaming market as it rewrites its corporate blueprint for working with technology.

Walt Disney has created a business unit focused on the interactive gaming market as it rewrites its corporate blueprint for working with technology.

With its Buena Vista Game Entertainment Studio, Disney is aiming to change the way people play online and video games. Instead of having people use a single PC or game station, it wants to let people run games on televisions, telephones, wireless phones, PCs, digital set-top boxes and other technologies.

The media and entertainment company tapped Jan Smith, who has worked with Disney for 14 years, as president of the unit. Smith also will continue to serve as president of Disney Interactive.

Disney has been taking a hard look at its online and technology strategies since it closed its troubled Go.com Web portal in January. For example, it recently announced plans to fold the online operations of its TV properties back in-house. By October, ABC.com, ABCNews.com and ESPN.com will be managed under their respective TV parents.

As the company reclaims its separate online divisions, it has been making new forays into areas such as video-on-demand and, now, interactive gaming. Early this month, Disney and News Corp. formed an online video-on-demand venture called Movies.com, which will feature live-action films and other content from The Walt Disney Studios. Movies.com, expected to launch in early 2002, will be available to consumers with enhanced cable systems with on-demand capabilities or with broadband Internet access.

Disney joins several prominent media and entertainment companies in its efforts to revive its online operations and lead consumers to new technologies. Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment recently launched Screenblast, an online venture that lets people create and publish their own music and videos. Cable network MTV Networks also launched a new project, dubbed MTV360, which features a music-download service, instant messaging and an Internet radio channel.

With efforts such as these, Disney and the other traditional entertainment companies are hoping to blend new and emerging technologies with existing devices or services that have already proven their popularity.

"Technological changes are rapidly sweeping over the game industry," Disney President Robert Iger said in a statement Wednesday. "This new business unit will position the Walt Disney Co. to take full advantage of this evolving landscape by consolidating our existing game activity and aggressively and creatively pursuing new opportunities and entertainment."

As head of the Buena Vista Game Entertainment Studio, Smith will report to Iger. Smith joined Disney in 1987 and helped launched The Disney Store. She has also served as vice president of Licensed Publishing and Creative Development as well as vice president and group publisher for Disney Publishing for Children.