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Disney sees 'great opportunity' in the overcrowded mobile market

Disney sees 'great opportunity' in the overcrowded mobile market

March 21, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

"The handwringing and the bearishness is way overwrought. To me, mobile is becoming a real business."

- Disney Interactive mobile chief Chris Heatherly, speaking to the state of the mobile game industry.

The mobile game market is huge, and dominated by entrenched hitmakers like Supercell (Clash Royale, Clash of Clans), King (Candy Crush Saga) and Machine Zone (Game of War: Fire Age).

And with hundreds of new mobile games launching every day, it can be a struggle for developers to survive -- much less thrive -- in the modern mobile game industry. But for Disney Interactive mobile chief Chris Heatherly, all that "handwringing" (at least on the part of mobile game industry investors) is an overblown reaction to a game market that's reached a new stage of maturity.

"The industry struggled for five years to get to free to play. Now, you have a lot of competent free-to-play teams that know how to make money. That’s going to be the table stakes," Heatherly told GamesBeat at GDC last week. "The stuff that gets more exciting is richer, deeper communities, smarter meta-mechanics. I feel like a lot of people are losing focus on the mobile market, and that’s fine by me. We think we have a great opportunity here."

What's especially intriguing here is that Disney Interactive slimmed down significantly in the last few years (by, among other things, laying off hundreds of people) and Heatherly now says Disney is trying to make fewer games ("one of the problems we had in the past with our strategy was trying to be big for the sake of being big") and focus on using them as part of a "network" to generate both revenue and interest in its other properties.

"We used to look at games only from the perspective of, 'How much can we make in [in-app purchases]?' If you did that, you would never make a casual game. Everyone ran away from the casual market," said Heatherly. "People get into things like character collection that’s new to that market. But you’re also seeing stuff like rewarded video advertising. People have multiple ways to pay us. They can pay us by being social. They can pay us with money. They can pay us by watching ads. It’s their choice. We’ll be focused on the size and quality of our network, as well as balancing that with the revenue-making potential."

For more of Heatherly's comments, including his breakdown of how Disney Interactive is approaching VR vs. mobile development and why the studio partnered with Crossy Road maker Hipster Whale to create Disney Crossy Road (pictured), check out the full GamesBeat interview.

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