Disney says its future video game efforts lie in licensing, not publishing
“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.”
- Disney CEO Bob Iger outlines the company's game development plans.
Disney isn’t handing the development or publishing of games based on its vast (and growing) library of franchises, but the company is perfectly content working with external companies like Electronic Arts instead.
Disney CEO Bob Iger briefly discussed how the company’s approach to games has changed over the last several years in a recent earnings call, and noted that the company has good relationships with the developers working on licensed works, including Battlefront 2 dev EA.
“Over the years, as you know, we’ve tried our hand at self-publishing. We’ve bought companies, we’ve sold companies, we’ve bought developers, we’ve closed developers,” Iger said in comments grabbed by Variety. “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.”
Some of those closures Iger mentions include the 2016 closure of Disney Infinity developer Avalanche Software, resulting in 300 layoffs, and the more recent shut down of the game Club Penguin Island, which reportedly caused dozens of layoffs at developer Disney Canada.
Disney’s current solution, outside of more casual mobile games, is licensing its properties to external developers, something Iger says is a much better fit for the company. The most memorable of those licensing agreements is Disney’s ongoing partnership with EA that, though rocked by some loot box controversy last year, is still alive and well according to Disney.
“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 and not publishing,” said Iger. “We’ve had good relationships with some of those we’re licensing to, notably EA and the relationship on the Star Wars properties, and we’re probably going to stay on that side of the business and put our capital elsewhere.”