Is Disney bad at video games?

Is Disney bad at video games?


Disney’s CEO Bob Iger says Disney is bad
at video games, but actually, are they? Why aren’t they doing a better job? The answer lies in Disney’s long and erratic
approach to game development. Their first crack at the game biz was Walt
Disney Computer Software, founded in 1988. They wanted to publish a game to coincide
with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was due in theaters in 9 months. But they couldn’t find a developer willing
to do it in such a short time. So they had to do it in-house, the game dev
equivalent of a shotgun wedding. The Who Framed Roger Rabbit game was a success
and made tons of money despite the short turn-around, which gave Disney an idea: what if…. more
money? Games at this time were mostly cartridge-based,
which meant investing in manufacturing and shipping, and that’s a great way to
not get money immediately. So Disney licensed out their IP for consoles
and set WDCS to work on computer games and software. “Disney Presents The Animation Studio” was a
big seller, and proved that there was something to this whole software idea. Early on, WDCS had a lot of freedom because
they were small and could be ignored. As they became more successful, and as games
became a larger economic force, they drew more attention from the higher-ups, like the
Eye of Sauron turning on Frodo. Sauron: I…. SEE…. YOU… According to employees at the time, it was
nearly impossible to get projects approved because Disney didn’t know what it wanted
to do with the whole concept of games. WDCS would lay dormant with no projects for
over a year in the early 90s. Then in ‘93, Disney licensed out Aladdin
to Sega. But they did the animation in-house, with
digitization from Virgin Interactive. The Aladdin game made thick stacks, selling
over 4 million copies, reminding Disney once again that oh right, money. So in ‘94, WDCS and its eight remaining
employees became Disney Interactive. All development moved in-house, more staff
was hired, and they started cranking out both entertainment and edu-tainment. Pooh: [adorable laughter] But then in 1997 the winds shifted again;
game development costs were rising, but more importantly, Disney’s new financial standards
lead to a quarter of Disney Interactive’s staff being laid off – about 90 people. They went back to dealing with just PC games,
and let other companies handle consoles. In some cases, like Kingdom Hearts, the projects
were quasi-collaborative; Disney provided talent and guidance for their IP. But quality was an issue – not every licensed
Disney game was a Kingdom Hearts. Plus PC games and edutainment weren’t exactly
rich veins, compared to the console market. So in 2002, new leadership took over and started
to spin up the ol’ in-house development windmill again. Two Disney-developed Game Boy Advanced projects
were published and did well, so Disney was like, fuck it, go crazy. And EXPAND THEY DID. Disney acquired Avalanche
Studios in 2005, Black Rock Studios Limited in 2006, Junction Point and the Club Penguin
property in 2007, Gamestar in 2008, Wideload Games in 2009, Tapulous and Playdom in 2010
and LucasArts in 2012. [pained intake of breath] Additional studios were formed too: Propaganda
Games in 2005, Fall Line Studio in 2006. It was like the Winchester Mystery House approach
to studio development. If you look at that list and think that’s
too much, then, yeah, uh, that’s what the non-game bits of Disney thought too. This studio-golem had some successes: Hannah
Montana on the Nintendo DS sold over a million copies. But Disney’s attempts to chase a young male
audience with new IP never quite matched those numbers. And the animation licenses weren’t as valuable
– gone were the halcyon days of Aladdin. It was the mid-2000s bog of DOA franchises
and low-quality sequels. Remember Home on the Range? No. Nobody remembers Home on the Range. Plus by the late 2000s, the gaming landscape
had once again shifted: Facebook and mobile gaming were lucrative markets that Disney
wasn’t in. Thus came the reaping: hundreds of jobs, and
a myriad of in-development titles, with Disney Interactive Studios itself officially closing
in May 2016. And we’ve found over the years that we haven’t been particularly good at the self-publishing side. But we’ve been great at the licensing side. Which obviously doesn’t require that much allocation of capital. And since we’re allocating capital in other directions, we’ve just decided that the best place for us to be, in that space, is licensing. That brings us roughly to the present and to the question at hand: Is Disney just bad
at games? They’re often a few steps behind the rest
of the industry – going in to PCs when consoles are popping off, missing the moment on Facebook
gaming. On the other hand, Disney Infinity was successfully
on top of the “toys to life” trend, before that market fell out. More than anything, Disney is big enough that
it could weather changes in the game market, if it wanted to. It’s less about being “good” at games
and more about a conservative business strategy. Disney only really has three options. One, license their properties out. Two, stick their thumbs in the game pie and
hope for a big ol’ plum. Or three, some mixture of Disney oversight on
licensed products, like they had with Aladdin and Kingdom Hearts. But pure licensing will always be the safest
– if the least profitable – option. Consider Star Wars Battlefront II; the fallout
of the loot box debacle rained down on EA Games, while Disney hung out in the fallout
shelter of hands-off licensing. So will Disney pivot back to self-publishing
anytime soon? Given that Iger is the wellspring for the
“Disney is bad at games” water, probably not — at least, until his contract is up
in 2021. Who knows what game plan for the next leader will be? That said, it’s unlikely we’ll see any games,
licensed or in-house, that are closely linked to Disney’s movie franchises. Take, for example, Square Enix’s Avengers
game. Avengers Trailer VO: The Avengers were everything I imagined. Clearly – clearly – it has nothing to do with
the multi-billion dollar franchise Disney has developed for the last decade. Who are these people? Who are these strangers? That is not my beautiful Hulk! But honestly, there’s no way this game could connect to the MCU. It was announced in January 2017. Here’s all the movies
that have come out in the Marvel Universe between that announcement and this moment: Wow! It’s too many! It would be impossible to
anticipate the changes in the MCU far enough in advance for the long triple-A game production
cycle. Not to mention adjusting for audience reactions. Remember how Marvel released Black Panther
in February because they thought nobody would care? Basically the game can’t be part of the
same universe. The best it can do is wait for characters
to become big in the MCU and then ride that wave into DLC content. So if you can’t intimately tie your game
release to your massive movie universe, why not off-load it? Let other developers deal with it. Or maybe in another five years Disney will
release a battle royale game, and then Thanos can guest-star in that instead of Fortnite.

100 Comments on “Is Disney bad at video games?”

  1. There was a game I liked a lot from Disney: Pure. However they refused to sell the game on Steam and there is no way to have it my country except for pirating it. So I never managed to pay for it…

  2. They never should have closed Toontown…

    But at the same time, I’m glad they did because now it’s entirely playable for free. No need to buy a membership card from Target every month anymore.

  3. Oh Yeah. Players arent going to want to play an Avengers game closely tied to the MCU if it's not going to be caught up to current events. Sure. Like if we're not going to buy the game to play as the Avengers just because it's missing the latest inductee to the MCU. "I'm no going to buy this game and play as these 20 Avengers because it doesn't have the 21st". In what word, lady?

  4. oh man, "Disney's Adventures in The Magic Kingdom" was so good. (I mean the gameplay was also kind of bad, but it was good.) Also Tailspin and Duck Tails also on the NES

  5. 6:40 they released it in february because it's a dead ass month for movies and it would easily take center stage… also it was black history month.

  6. Epic Mickey was a great game as well, not only was the soundtrack great but the setting and branching story was fantastic

  7. uh excuse me??? “quality was an issue” shows the tarzan game how dare u jenna that is my childhood ur talking about 😭

  8. Hey guys, I like and appreciate the content of the video but just some constructive feedback:
    Those floating text bits were really jarring because you highlighted them and made them seem really important but you kept talking over them and I didn't know what to focus on. Just keep that in mind when displaying text on screen.

  9. Ok but the Bolt, Wall-E, and Ratatouille games were my jam. Never played Epic Mickey but that one was a big hit too.

  10. They are overreactionary.
    …is that a word?
    "Hey! Games made us a good chunk this quarter."
    "Really? Then let's give the same division a billion dollars this quarter and expect them to instantly scale and succeed!"
    "That'll work, right?" "Haha. We're business people! So smrt."

  11. Can you clarify what you meant by saying Disney released Black Panther in February because they thought people “nobody would care”? As in, they could release a Marvel film on a Monday afternoon and it would still make bank or you you think Disney was dumping BP in a normally slow month due to a lack of confidence?

  12. ah yes. sometimes i forget that underneath all the laughter and magic disney is still a cutthroat megacorporation infamous for its reptilian financial decisions and hellbent on keeping its vicelike iron grip on every franchise and media outlet possible while at the same time somehow managing to dodge any meaningful responsibility for its own actions. cool. great

  13. The star wars story group is a different matter. From what I can tell, because of their promise to the few fans who actually care about that stuff, the story group treated battlefront 2's story mode, uprising, and fallen order the same way they treat their books. It's the author/ea's job to produce good content on the technical level, they just approve all the overarching story choices and have their editors check for would be plot holes. So Battlefront 2 is more in the kingdom heart's business style than you might think. But these are people more concerned with making sure that Golden doesn't contradict Battlefront with her book than making a good, popular, or profitable game.

  14. Say what you want about Disney and the games they make but Split second is still one of my favorite racing games to this day! I wish they'd make a sequel with modern graphics and smoother handling.

  15. what about the time Disney published the "Spectrobes" series? I think they sold horrifically but that was in like mid 2000's

  16. I don't forgive Disney for shutting down Junction Point come on the people deserved an Epic Mickey 3 you were doing so well……

  17. It's so funny on how they are so powerful in the business but yet they suck when it comes to the video game industry just goes to show it doesn't matter how good you are at multiple things there's going to be one thing you suck at

  18. It is crazy that it took Marvel 10 years after MCU started to release AAA marvel games, Spiderman PS4. At same time they had release 20 MCU movies.

  19. My answer is yes. They just don't know what to with it. This mainly because of their short term mindset from their money tinted vision. And with movies, people don't care because they too have their own distorting blindspot, but this time with a nostalgia tint.

  20. Does anybody remember the game "Donald duck in Maui Mallard" for Sega and SNES (or just Donald Duck in Cold Shadow on PC)?

    It had pretty good soundtrack and even some pretty challenging levels. Concept just being Donald Duck "acting" as Hawaian detective who can transform blindfolded ninja and fights folks from pirate corpses to zombie ducks.

  21. the biggest problem Disney faces with video games is that they were never a pioneer in the industry, but expect to make a crapton of money as if they were. they fail to understand that if they really want to make a commitment to developing and publishing their own video game franchises they need to invest for the long run and build up an audience and learn to improve on their successes and failures. take what works and build on that. but they're never going to really get better and really get the gaming industry if they just give up when the numbers don't look even remotely like their films or tv shows. but the executives, who never really grew up in or helped revolutionize the digital age, and are old and more comfortable with things they know consistently pull out massive numbers for the company, are just too lazy and paranoid to make that investment. so they just went for the safest option. which is really sad, cause it really is possibly for Disney to make good games.

  22. Anybody remember that time Disney released a Pokémon knockoff called Spectrobes and then forgot to advertise it?

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