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Evolving Disney: Graham Hopper Speaks
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Evolving Disney: Graham Hopper Speaks

January 15, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

Last year, Buena Vista Interactive became Disney Interactive; the name change came along with other big changes for the company -- with bigger, in-house games and lots of studio acquisitions, including Warren Spector's Junction Point studio, and Climax UK's racing studio, now renamed Black Rock.

To find out more about the evolution of the major Disney division, which now spans games from High School Musical to Turok, Gamasutra recently sat down with Disney Interactive's general manager Graham Hopper to discuss this and a host of other issues.

I want to talk about how things are going with Disney. For a while, it was Buena Vista Games, and your business was more focused on licensing. There was publishing, but it was definitely a different model. Now you've acquired Propaganda and other studios, and are interested in bulking up. How has that been going? First of all, what was the motive behind moving into that space, toward being a more full-featured publisher?

Graham Hopper: As you correctly pointed out, we've been in the business since 1994, as a PC publisher. We had never really stepped into console publishing, and licensing was quite a big part of our business. We went through an evaluation of our business about four or five years ago when I came on board, to decide what we wanted to do.

At the top, we had to make a decision to either stay as a licensor and give our content to other people, or make a decision to get into this in a more significant way. We made the decision to get into it in a more significant way, because we think the gaming industry is moving in a direction that plays to our strengths as a company, in terms of storytelling, character creation, franchise creation, and ongoing franchise management.

We also think that our brand has not been properly developed in the game space, and as the more we got into it, the more we realized that there is more and more room for us to reach consumers, particularly male consumers -- boys and men -- that the Disney brand doesn't otherwise reach, except through video games.

From a company strategic perspective, it's a sector we still needed to be in. From a business perspective, it's a growing piece of media and standard business, and it makes sense for us to be in. And in terms of unexploited opportunity, it's also a big opportunity for us. In all of those there, it really felt like it was the right time for us to... you could probably argue that we could've done it before, but I think studios were jumping to this too soon, back in the mid-'90s, when they could see the potential, but weren't ready for it.

This time we've done it. I think we've gone into it at the right time, and I think we've gone into it in the right way. Most of the people in our organization are from out of the games industry. They know how to make games. It's not about just good visuals. It's also about great gameplay.

Joseph Turok grapples with a ferocious dinosuar

A lot of the companies that jumped in in the '90s jumped right back out again, and then they got back in again.

GH: Right. Again, I think our strategy is the right one, because it's starting with the right people and the right creative processes. We've been at this for a period of time. It's only now that some of the features that we've been working on are starting to come out. Our first efforts have been on handheld platforms, where up until... I haven't checked the latest numbers... but up until the end of September, we were the number two DS publisher in North America.

We hope our brand will be number two on handhelds for quite some time. It's really for us been... it's taking our success we've had on handheld, where we've been at it the longest, and have the shortest cycles, and now it's time to translate that to console. That's going to be where you'll see much more of us in the next few years.

As you rightfully point out, Turok is certainly different from Disney. Actually, this is coming out under the Touchstone label, right?

GH: Correct.

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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