Michael Jackson may be dead, but his avatar will live on. SEE Virtual Worlds has announced plans to launch Planet Michael, an online virtual world devoted to the star, and fully licensed by the Michael Jackson Estate. The world is due to go live in late 2011.According to the announcement, Planet Michael will be “an immersive virtual space themed after iconic visuals drawn from Michael’s music, his life, and the global issues that concerned him… a massive social gaming experience that will allow everyone, from the hardcore fan to the novice, to connect and engage in collaborative in-game activities with people worldwide.”The world is using the existing Entropia Universe virtual world platform, which is run by Swedish company MindArk. Planet Michael will be free to use, but will feature an in-world economy, with players able to buy virtual items and donate to charities.“We envisioned a magical, enjoyable place that will capture that zest for fun and life that was at Michael’s very core,” says SEE Virtual Worlds CEO Martin Biallas. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson Estate co-executor John Branca promises that it will be a “global interactive experience that befits an artist as innovative as Michael Jackson”.There’s no doubt that there’s big money behind Planet Michael, but it remains to be seen how popular (and lucrative) the world will be. It’s also unclear at this stage what licensing deals will be signed – if any – to get Jackson’s music into the world, for example streaming in the background.Here are some work-in-progress screenshots:

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