In 2016, Disney announced that it would close down its Disney Infinity series of games and cease publishing games. Despite the success the series had (over $200 million earned), the series cost more than it made. Disney had been having trouble creating games that made an impact in the industry for some time. Titles like Split/Second and Epic Mickey were unsuccessful and even successful franchises were operating at a loss. As a result, it decided to license all of its properties out for other developers to make. While Disney had been doing this already even as it made games itself, Disney’s interaction with the video games industry was now this, exclusively.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
Flash forward to now: Three years have passed and Disney is more dominant than ever. The animation branch is thriving, Star Wars is on everyone’s mind thanks to the recent movies and Marvel is just exploding in popularity. Furthermore, Disney now owns Fox and all of its subsidiaries (except for Fox News). Disney is also making a push to further its television presence with the upcoming release of Disney +, an app similar to Netflix that will exclusively have Disney movies and shows, as well as exclusive to the app content.
THE MISSING LINK
With all this happening, video games are conspicuously absent. (Rehashes of past its efforts aside.) Disney even has its foot in the sports industry (through ESPN) but prefers to keep the biggest entertainment industry currently at arm’s length. Speaking of which, while some licensing has worked out okay, many video games that Disney has licensed out haven’t worked out too well. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite notoriously bombed and Star Wars Battlefront II recently got the Guinness world record for one of the most downvoted posts on Reddit. (Seriously, that game is one of the most well-known PR disasters in video game history.) It might be time for Disney to take the reigns back on its own properties and begin making games again.
Disney is a company that is known for getting people who know what they’re doing to herd its properties. It is known for quality and it is known for not just shoveling any old thing out and slapping its name on it. It’s a good example that quality matters. The company could apply that mentality to video games. It could hire a video game veteran who is looking for a challenge who also share Disney’s more family-friendly image and disposition. Perhaps it could look for those who helped create Sonic the Hedgehog or Rayman or Jak and Daxter. The mascot platformer would be what would fit Disney the most. It’s also the most versatile as that type of action game can be applied to a varied of licenses, such as Star Wars and Marvel characters.
REVIVED OUT OF NECESSITY
Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t have the confidence to do so. It seems the company’s past failings loom large still as Bob Iger recently stated that Disney was never “good” at video games. However, the company’s hand might be forced.
Despite Disney stating that it was happy with how Electronic Arts has handled its Star Wars property, there are reports of job openings for defunct game developer, LucasArts. There are also rumors that the Star Wars Battlefront II debacle did cause Disney to call EA. So while it may say it’s happy with EA’s treatment of Star Wars, there’s evidence to suggest that’s just PR speak. Disney may be gearing up, despite its own reservations, to re-enter the video games industry.
And the return would be a welcome one. Despite its financial failings, Split/Second and Disney Infinity were solid titles and even titles like Epic Mickey were solid conceptually. It could still license properties to other publishers and it should. With a developer under its wing and people employed that know the video games industry, it could help make better games and maintain the integrity of the brands — similar to how it is with the Marvel brand at Disney. The point being, Disney’s style of profitable quality with attention to both detail and marketability might be something refreshing for the video game industry.
THE INDUSTRY NEEDS SOME DISNEY MAGIC
Currently, the industry is making no real concentrated effort to endear itself to the general public. The current strategy of most triple-A publishers appears to make a good game (hopefully) and then see what un-consumer friendly practices it can squeeze into the game. While some games are more affected than others (Mortal Kombat 11) and some do forgo the practice entirely (God of War), there are too many bad actors in the industry to call it a passing fad.
Think what you will of Disney, and most complaints would be valid, but it got as big as it did because of its high quality and ability to appeal to many demographics. It even branched out in order to include those who what something that doesn’t appeal to everyone. Disney creates family-friendly content as well as adult-oriented content. A company that’s willing to have that kind of diversity, a company that’s willing to hire someone to shepherd the brand to quality, a company that understands that in order to endure and to endear; that is what the video games industry could use right now.
KEEP READING: Disney+: The Potential Downside to the Streaming Service
A Green Lantern Returns, With the Powers of DC’s Most Sinister Villain