Saturday, June 11, 2016

Epic Failure

The rise and fall of Disney video games as interpreted by the MiceChat blog:

... Disney Interactive, never seemed to have complete confidence from the parent company. They were never given autonomous creative control, nor were they ever run by a person that truly understood gaming and the gaming market. Most gamers could tell that the studio existed for the most part to try and wring money out of the gaming industry. Their titles were often lackluster and existed mainly to translate films or television shows into game form. ...

Disney announced that Mickey Mouse was back and he was going to become a star of a new franchise. Epic Mickey, released in 2010, was watched with great anticipation from audiences and editors alike. ... It was announced that Warren Spector would produce the title. He had produced, if not co-produced some of the most critically acclaimed PC titles including Ultima VI, Wing Commander, Deus: Ex and System Shock, Almost from the get-go Spector was hampered by mandates from the head office.

Epic Mickey would push a dystopian version of Disneyland and try to re-introduce Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back into the public consciousness. His team at Junction Point studio did their best best with the mandate. An awkward control scheme and a single platform release made it a flop in the eyes of the industry. Undoing all of the missteps in Epic Mickey 2 was too little too late.

Spector was dismissed and Junction Point was closed down. Spector was a passionate Disney fan and knew much more about the company and its history than any other producer the studio ever had. Word was that his outspokenness and challenging the direction of the studio had rubbed a few executives the wrong way. Instead of recognizing that he was the talent that the company was sorely lacking, the Shigeru Miyamoto they never had, the company let him go. ...

Disney never became fully invested in doing the interactive games thing.

If you hire a top talent in the game sector, it's always useful to let him run with the things he does best. (The main lot doesn't micro-manage John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, after all. Sure, they give notes and other input, but Diz Co. is not timid about investing in bi-screen animation, and they're not inclined to second-guess the division's leaders).

This doesn't appear to be the case with Disney Interactive. Upper management never ceased second-guessing the division's creative heads. Instead the Walt Disney Co. over-analyzed product, became overly paranoid, and continually changed creative direction, yanking the chain of whoever sat in the driver's seat of Disney Interactive.

From street level, the reversals were continually on view. You don't give staff long-term Personal Service Contracts and then, months later, attempt to weasel out of them if you know what the freak you're doing. But that's what Disney Interactive did a few years ago.

The confidence to tackle the game medium and hang in there until results were in evidence wasn't there. And the division, through several incarnations, never found it's creative footing ... or a clear reason for being.

The chronology of what happened following Epic Mickey.

October 2012, Disney Interactive Media Group had 15 consecutive quarters of losses totaling $977 million

January 2013, Avalanche Software, one of the developers for Disney Interactive Games unveiled the cross platform game Disney Infinity

October 2013, Disney Interactive posted a profit of $16 million during the September Quarter.

March 2014, Disney Interactive laid off 700 people, 1/4 of its staff. And merged its mobile and social game units.

June 2015, Disney Interactive merged with Disney Consumer Products

May 2016, Disney Interactive discontinued Disney Infinity and closed down the developers at Avalanche Software due to lack of growth in the toy-to-game market. ...

And so now it's finito to the interactive game division birthed ... and then strangled in its crib ... by the Walt Disney Company.


Unknown said...

You should make your post clear that it came from a blog, you copied most of it.

Steve Hulett said...

Happy to oblige.

Grant said...

Disney made many big mistakes in the video game realm—mostly not knowing what it wanted to be. That and a succession of bad management who thought they knew how to fix it, yet had no experience in creating video games, and ultimately failed. Warren spector being one of them. No one bothered to ever tell him NO ONE wanted a “dystopian,” dark, and ugly Disney world. A bad mashup from someone who obviously doesn’t understand Disney characters or film history other than the most surface of notions. Someone who put worlds together with no thought to the character of each world. Bad idea—-and the primary reason it failed so miserably.

Steve Hulett said...

Welll. ... Fail it did.

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