The beta version opened publicly on May 23, 2005 with three virtual lands to explore: Main Street USA, Fantasyland, and Adventureland. This "beta" designation was removed on June 27. The Tomorrowland game area was made available on October 5, and Frontierland opened on December 12. The rest of Tomorrowland opened on April 4, 2006, and New Orleans Square, the final land added, opened on January 8, 2007.
VMK initially launched as an attachment to the Disneyland 50th Birthday Celebration, without long-term intentions, but it gained popularity and eventually became a long-term venture on its own. The target audience of the game was children between the ages of 8 and 14, although VMK was designed to be enjoyed by guests of all ages. Due to the young age of the game's target users, it was patrolled by paid staff who watched out for inappropriate behaviour and language, keeping the virtual world safe. Because of the need for human monitors, the time that the game was open had to be limited; it was open to the public daily between 7:00am–10:00pm PST (10:00am–1:00am EST, 3:00pm–6:00am UTC).
On May 21, 2008, the Virtual Magic Kingdom game was closed by Disney. Many fans asked Disney if VMK was going to reopen. This prompted Disney to post a message on the VMK homepage that the game was a promotion, and was closed, and that there were "no plans" to reopen VMK in any form.
The VMK homepage now redirects you to Disney.com Games.
The VMK game engine used Adobe Shockwave, a multimedia platform used to add animation and interactivity to web pages, first developed by Macromedia, released in 1995 and later acquired by Adobe Systems, and was created by The Sulake Corporation, who also created the online multiplayer game Habbo Hotel.
The Virtual Magic Kingdom consisted of "Disney Lands", each depicted in isometric projection, and each with a distinct theme.
No more than 15 characters could occupy a room at any time. If a player tried to enter a guest room which already contained fifteen characters, he or she would be put into a queue to wait to enter. A player could request a free "VMK pass" if there were more than five people in the queue for a room; this allowed him or her to walk around freely in other rooms until it was his or her turn to enter. The public rooms all had multiple "instances", named after compass directions (such as the "North-East-East" instance), and each instance could have up to fifteen characters in it. When moving around the public rooms, a character would be randomly placed in an instance of a room unless the player checked the "Advanced Mode" box, in which they could select a specific instance for his or her character to enter.
During October, all the rooms along Main Street were decorated for Halloween. In 2005, the decorations were left up until December; in 2006 and 2007, Christmas décor appeared immediately after Halloween.
Players whose characters met in the same room at the same time could become "friends": one issued an invitation to the other, and if the other accepted, then each player would always be able to see when the other was online and in what game location, and would be able to jump instantly to the other character's location (unless blocked by a 'friends only' flag on the room, the presence of the friend's character within a game, or a 'special entrance' room). Either player could remove someone from his or her friends list at any time.
- Airlock Escape
- Blast in Space
- Castle Fireworks Remixed
- The Haunted Mansion
- Hyperspace Mountain
- The Jungle Cruise
- Magic Checkers
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Street Party Music Game / Monorail Music Game
- The VMK Trading Card Game
- Parade and Scavenger Hunt
- Room Decorating Event
- Dreams Month
- Haunted Maze Event
- Gift-Giving Event
- Yeti Quest
- Gingerbread Room
- Captain Blackheart's Treasure Hunt Quest
A new player began by registering an account at the VMK website. The player then set up a character (an avatar) and selected the character's gender and appearance (shirt, shoes, pants, hair, hat, face, and colors for skin and hair). The player chose a name for the avatar, but until the VMK staff approved the name they requested, their name was "Guest" followed by the number of player that they are (e.g. Guest7402548). If the name was not approved, the VMK staff would let the player create another name. The player also selected a "guest room", his or her own themed area which could be decorated with furniture, posters, a boat canal, train tracks, game items, or other material. One room was provided for free, and additional rooms could be purchased later with in-game credits. The player could enter a few lines of text, known as a "signature", which were displayed in the character's publicly visible profile. The character was then given a few tradeable items (mostly T-shirts), and was placed in the game.
A player could also choose from a list of randomly selected "adjective-adjective-noun" names presented to him or her; if he or she chose one of these names, it did not need undergo staff approval.