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Evolving Disney: Graham Hopper Speaks


January 15, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next
 

Can you talk about the decision to move into using the Touchstone brand for games?

GH: The Walt Disney Company has become a multi-brand company over the years. We have ESPN, we have Touchstone Movies, we have Walt Disney Pictures, and we have Miramax. Each of these labels, if you like, have their own sort of focus. The vast majority of what we're doing is Disney-branded content, because that's where we see the biggest sorts of opportunities for us, and the biggest market opportunity in expanding gaming to reaching to more players that are going to be playing today.

The Touchstone aspect for us is a terrifically small piece of our world, but an important one, because it's putting us at the cutting edge of game development, which is Pixar tools and technology-strong. We are taking a cinematic approach. It's not just about "bang bang bang." It's about really trying to tell a story, and creating immersive environments.

As a company, we're about building franchises, and sustaining franchises over the long haul. When we looked at Turok, which was a beaten-down franchise, it had a lot of success over the years, but then had some disappointing creative behind it. We felt that we could bring our creative and our storytelling and great play to it, and we could reinvigorate the franchise, like we've done for many others before. So that plays to our company's strength as well.

Did you have any reservations about the fact that, with Turok, the license is owned by another company? Did that fit in with your strategy? Did you like it because it had been a great franchise? What was the appeal there?

GH: Typically, unlike most other game publishers, we own almost everything that we do. So yeah, it is an anomaly for us to be working with what is, for us, a licensed property. But we felt that this was a game franchise that needed to be reinvented, and we thought we could do a great job of it, in terms of bringing the full cinematic, immersive experience. That's why we picked it out.

It's not symptomatic that we're going to be taking lots of licenses from other people. It's just really an opportunistic move, and we felt this was a great business opportunity for us, and we wanted to show gamers what we could do.

Speaking of moving away from licensing out Disney's core properties to other publishers to work with... is that a blanket policy? Is that something that's going to phase in over a course of years as the contracts expire, or are you not really discussing that?

GH: The key thing for us is being flexible. We never said that we wanted to move away from licensing, and we don't intend to. Great examples of licensed games that we make that we would love to continue to make those licensed games.

A great example of that is Kingdom Hearts. It's a great collaboration between Square and ourselves. Disney characters are in there, and Final Fantasy characters are in there. It's the kind of collaboration that works, and where we see other opportunities like that, we will do them.

We've got a relationship with THQ, and things with Konami. It's not an aberration for us to be licensing. They stay part of our portfolio. But a big piece of the focus is that we didn't feel that purely following a license would give us the right kind of investment focus on quality, and building our brand in games where we thought we had the potential to do.

Our moving to those handheld games... when that started, people were laughing at us because they thought it was stupid, they didn't think there was a business opportunity there. I can't tell you how many senior executives in the game business told me, "That doesn't make any sense. Girls don't play games." What I think we're doing is we're bringing girls into gaming at an early age, and giving them a great experience, and they'll move on to play other things at the time, too. I think it's ultimately good for the industry.

 


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