According to a number of reports doing the rounds, Disney Interactive Studios has begun a company restructuring process and will aim to realign its efforts in the videogame publishing arena by focussing on digital distribution and online games, rather than packaged goods games for retail.
“As part of setting a strategic direction for future success in the digital media space,” read a statement to Variety, “the Disney Interactive Media Group today began a restructuring process.”
This new direction obviously puts major questions over the future of Disney’s current game studios, including Junction Point (Disney Epic Mickey) and Black Rock (Split/Second), and it seems as though some of those questions have already been answered with reports of layoffs across the company.
Some reports, citing inside sources, have claimed that as many as half of Disney Interactive Studios’ 700 employees have been ‘affected’ by recent staff cuts. This news arrives on the back the closure of internal Disney studio Propaganda Games last week, the company tasked with creating the movie-tie in action game, Tron: Evolution.
Over the course of 2010, top management positions at Disney Interactive Studios were also vacated by industry stalwarts including game director at Disney for eight years, Graham Hopper, as well as Disney Interactive Media Group head Steve Wadsworth.
Leading further credence to Disney’s focus on digital games was its acquisition of online social game developer, Playdom, for $763 million, which at the time of purchase enjoyed 42 million active users across its games and was the third largest developer of online social games behind giants Zynga and Playfish, the latter of which was acquired by EA last year.
Additionally, and despite the fact that the studio’s debut title sold over 1.3 million copies in the US alone last year, there have been reports and concrete confirmations about layoffs at the Warren Spector-helmed Junction Point Studios, which created last year’s Wii-exclusive title Disney Epic Mickey. While Spector himself has been confirmed to still be at the studio, a “fairly minimal” number of employees have been let go.
It also seems as though Disney Epic Mickey has been the only real success story to emerge from Disney Interactive Studios’ retail game line-up, after Tron: Evolution and Split/Second both performed poorly at market, while the Wii party game, Guilty Party, came and went without much fanfair at all.