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Report: Disney Interactive Sees Significant Layoffs
Report: Disney Interactive Sees Significant Layoffs
January 24, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

January 24, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
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    23 comments
More: Console/PC



Reports trickling out of game publisher Disney Interactive indicate severe layoffs at the company, including at its Austin-based Junction Point Studios and its Los Angeles headquarters.

"Sources familiar with the situation" told CNBC that a "significant portion" of the division's employees have been let go, citing "some insiders" as reporting the cutbacks may have affected up to half of the studio's 700 employees.

Schell Games' Bryan Cash was among the first to tweet about the layoffs earlier today, offering "condolences to those folks laid off from Junction Point." Other developers have been tweeting similar sentiments, and telling Gamasutra they've heard reports of layoffs at the company.

When Gamasutra requested an official comment on these reports from a studio spokesperson, we were told she could not comment because she had been "affected" by the layoffs.

Despite these reports, Gamasutra has been told that Disney studio Junction Point has not been closed entirely, and that designer Warren Spector is still with the company.

Spector helmed Disney Interactive's latest release, Junction Point's Disney Epic Mickey, which sold 1.3 million copies in the U.S. during the holiday season.

Disney's game publishing division has seen quite a few shake-ups since purchasing social game maker Playdom for $763 million last July. Playdom CEO John Pleasants was named co-president of the division in October, shortly after the departure of longtime president Steve Wadsworth.

Just last week, in a further sign it was moving away from big-budget console titles, the publisher shut down Propaganda Games after a lukewarm reception for the studio's recently released Tron: Evolution project.

[UPDATE: According to a statement given to outlets including Austin360.com, the Junction Point layoffs "were fairly minimal and it is part of a larger restructuring at Disney Interactive Studios, which is part of Disney Interactive Media Group." The company did not disclose the exact number of employees laid off.]


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Comments


Nicholas DiMucci
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At this rate, it's going to become developer instinct to automatically start packing up your stuff after a game releases...

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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@Nicholas



More like when your studio is bought. The "buy a studio, make it do one game, close it down" cycle is getting redundant fast. Both as an employee & and an investor, I am wary of companies that grow by acquisition.

Dave Smith
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at this point i consider every job a temporary contract.

Tim Carter
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Good instinct.



What does that tell you about what you should be doing?

Robert Baxter
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What are your thoughts there Tim>?

Tim Carter
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Well, hopefully I won't get my head ripped off saying this...



But I'm hinting that if these development employees were organized into contracted external firms, they wouldn't be laid off now, but simply moving to a new project. As a firm (separate from Disney), their own bizdev staff would be scouting constantly for new projects to move on to.

Kevin Reilly
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Tim, if I am not mistaken each of Disney's internal studios were independent development teams that were acquired when console development was a more stable profit center for the game unit, including Junction Point. Not sure that layoffs would have been avoided if they remained indie console devs as the publisher money spent on work for hire projects is pretty bare. You either have a hit game (and a job), or you don't.

Tim Carter
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Well... it's up to you as a whole. You either want to own your own ship, or you don't.

Lo Pan
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Hoping for a quick unemployment to those affected. Terrible news.

Christopher Enderle
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At least Texas has a decent safety net for unemployed workers.



Oh wait...

Nicholas Burress
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Funny...I was about to be interviewed by them.

Joshua Dallman
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Disney is great at making video games. That promote their properties.



To Disney games are just another version of a cable TV network or billboard network, another channel for them to fill. While they take up space and get fat, the rest of us work lean, depend on more than century-old brands and marketing brute force, and define the real future of the game industry every day. And therein lies the true fun.



Criswall predicts: more layoffs for Disney and its affiliates ahead.



P.S. We're hiring / brooklynpacket.com

Tim Carter
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Joshua, if some of these folks came together to form their own external game dev firm - in art or engineering - would you contract them for the duration of your next project?

Joshua Dallman
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We are interested in exploring such partnerships across the board. Find me on linkedin and let's talk. That goes for any mobile social dev.

A W
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Epic Mickey Sold 1.3 million copies on the Wii last year and layoffs is the thanks they get for that?

Fiore Iantosca
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Welcome to Corporate America.



As someone stated, tech positions seem to all be heading to contract positions. It's pretty gross but this is the reality.

Jeremy Hutchings
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Indeed ....... Corporate America, you are but cogs in the wheels for suits to make more cash .......... get back to your desk so you can be interrupted and shouted at !!

The ArcSlinger
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Epic Mickey had a monthly overhead of about a million bucks. Consider how many months of dev time it took to make a kids branded character star in an adventure game geared toward older players on a console that focuses on a younger and casual audience: 30-50 million dollar range. Plus, they built JP around Warren, who then had to build the actual dev team: an uphill battle. Another 20 mil was used to market the title. 1.3 million copies for Epic Mickey is an epic fail from a financial standpoint.

Lo Pan
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Agree, I think DIS was expecting 5-6 million sold through. This is totally reasonable considering the install base for the Wii. I wonder if the white elephant in the room is that Wii owners again did not support a major 3rd party game.

A W
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Perhaps... I wonder however if we know the real development cost of the game? I mean there are games that where made completely in mind with the Wii demographics that sold no where next to those numbers in 2 months time.

Ian Uniacke
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@ArcSlinger: Wow! Can you please provide a scrap of evidence for this because otherwise I'd like to claim absolute BS.



Furthermore EM looks like it will go on to sell about 4 million+ over its lifetime which is pretty big sales for any game. If it's at all likely that Disney were expecting more than this (I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they weren't) then they have their heads planted right up their asses. Doesn't seem at all believable what you are saying.

Carlos Obregon
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There are many games that sold beneath Epic Mickey in their first ten weeks but ended selling more than 1.3M in their lifetime. Given time it seems probably that Epic Mickey will sell 2M+ a feat that not maybe titles do (specially third party)



Was it a problem of unrealistic expectations?

David Glenn
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Well, I was offered a position there! I said No! Today I'm still collecting a paycheck - For Now!

I guess I made the right move - For Now!

I've always had a bad feeling about Disney Interactive. If I do anything with Disney, it will be Corp to Corp or not at all - I feel just the same either way. Disney is a nice company (I've worked at the studio for 15 years off and on before I moved on), but there are others still out there and I have no problems dealing with them at armís length.


none
 
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