Michael Jackson virtual world taking shape

A virtual planet devoted to Michael Jackson is being created online as a world where fans can go to celebrate the life of the late "King of Pop."

California-based SEE Virtual Worlds on Tuesday announced that it had a deal with Jackson's estate to make "Planet Michael," an Internet world based on the artist's music, life, and interests.

"Michael was always exploring creative new ways technology could enhance the experiences of his fans," Jackson estate co-executor John McClain said in a release.

"We are thrilled to be working with SEE Virtual Worlds to build a global interactive experience that befits an artist as innovative as Michael Jackson."

The virtual planet to be finished by late next year will let people use animated characters to socialize, explore and play games in a world with continents devoted to themes from Jackson's life, according to SEE.

"It is fitting that in Planet Michael his fans will be able to join together in such a unique way online to celebrate his music, his artistry and his devotion to helping those in need," said estate co-executor John Branca.

Planet Michael will be a free software download without subscription fees but will feature an in-world economy with opportunities to spend money or donate to charities, according to SEE.

"One of our primary goals was to build an interactive environment where fans from all over the world come together to affirm Michael's life-long dedication to fostering global friendships," said SEE chief executive Martin Biallas.

"The King of Pop was well-known for his visionary contributions to music, dance, fashion, entertainment and philanthropy, and it was critical that we somehow incorporate all of those elements into the game."

SEE launched a planetmichael.com website to provide information and updates about the project.

Moonwalking just like Michael Jackson will be possible with the November launch of the first videogame dedicated to the star since his death last year.

"Michael Jackson: The Experience" was developed under the watchful eye of Jackson's beneficiaries by French videogame titan Ubisoft and will teach players to master the King of Pop's most famous dance moves.

The version for the Nintendo Wii console, which has been seen by AFP, sets the tone right from the start with background music from the star's many hit songs. In total there will be between 25 and 30 available in the final version.

In the early 1990s, Jackson was the star of a videogame adapted from his 1988 "Moonwalker" film which involved players fighting supposed enemies of the star.

This game, however, invites the player to try to move like Jackson with points awarded for the most successful.

Jackson's death sent shockwaves around the world, and family and fans were outraged to learn that the man dubbed the King of Pop was administered a dangerous mix of powerful prescription drugs in the hours before his death.

Jackson was 50 years old when he died of cardiac arrest on July 25, 2009.

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