Disney Interactive Fires Nearly 30% of its Workforce

Epic Mickey

Apparently, Epic Mickey wasn’t nearly as epic as it needed to be to save Disney’s gaming division. On Monday, Disney Interactive Media Group, which lost $234 million in the most recent fiscal year, laid off nearly 200 employees out of its 700-person staff. More layoffs are anticipated soon.

Among the casualties is Vancouver’s Propaganda Games, which made the underperforming game Tron: Evolution. There were also layoffs at Austin-based Junction Point Studios, which made Epic Mickey, another underperforming title according to PC World. A Wall Street Journal article summarized that, “Disney appears to be focusing its future efforts in the games business on newer categories like social games, sales of which have been growing more quickly than traditional games and with a greater potential for profit because of the efficiencies of online distribution.”


  • http://www.vitaminsteve.com Steve Flack

    Maybe if the game’s broken camera system didn’t render the game pretty much unplayable, it would have actually been a success.

    • http://www.inkandpixelclub.com Sara

      While there’s still enough to the game that I’m enjoying it, I have to agree that the camera system is a mess. In this day and age, there’s just no excuse for a camera that moves that slowly or gets stuck and prevents you from being able to see enemies and platforms. An option to lock the camera onto enemies could have solves some of the problems, but the camera system really needed another round of two of reworking.

      • purin

        I managed to get used to it, but I still believe that Zelda should be the standard for cameras.

      • Ryoku

        There is a lock-on feature, after seeing gameplay my problem was that during the 2D platforming stages the camera would zoom out too far.

  • http://fernandopventura.blogspot.com/ Fernando Ventura

    What is a “social game”?!

    • Tory

      Go to facebook, log in, search games, find Farmville and add it, play it. that is a popular social game and one that would probably fit Disney well. Very cheap as in free to play but you buy little things here in there if you want, some games are more buy things than this one and have much less activity of any gaming experience like Mafia Wars which is just clickinhg a button over and over again, not really worth the effort are really a game in my mind. At least Farmville has you doing something. Cafe World is popular too now. I’ve heard bad things about the company behind these, Zynga, though I am not certain of the validity of such claims as I know nothing of the behind the scene situation.

      Sad about this I am as Epic Mickey is so pretty.

    • Sat

      I think it’s the stuff on Facebook, like “Farmville”.

      I wonder if Epic Mickey is really at fault though. The game sold well, I think it’s even one of the most popular third-party (aka game not made by Nintendo) game on the Wii. Sure, a few aspects of the game are a complete mess, but it still managed to sell well.

    • mickhyperion

      Virtual Magic Kingdom was a precursor to the modern social game, but Disney killed that too. I guess they can’t decide which end of the boat to run to fast enough.

    • Ryoku

      Games very similar to the Sims that typically have to be downloaded which saves the manufacturer money on packaging, shipping, and you can’t sell it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/JM-Urbina-Animation-Director/138440486216374 J.M.Urbina

    Disney is becoming synonym with “Fired”

  • Brad Constantine

    Sorry to hear about the layoffs. Let’s hope Disney Interactive finds it’s wings again, and creates many new exciting and groundbreaking titles in the future. Especially sad to hear the day after the President encouraged businesses to invest in new technologies.
    Hopefully some of these talented folks will get snatched up by other companies soon.

  • Vincent

    Well weird considering that the game has gotte over million sales, which comparing to other disney interactive games lately, that’s a great archivement.

    Still, for what other sources I found, Junction point (the team behind Epic Mickey) suffered the least damage. It was mostly the main Disney Interactive staff…

  • Kyle Maloney

    That’s too bad. I just recently bought epic Mickey too. It’s flawed but still good. You can see the effort was there. I hope to eventually get a sequel or two.

  • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

    Proof that Oswald is the underlying root of all evil.

  • http://fernandopventura.blogspot.com/ Fernando Ventura

    Why people in charge never realize that quantity is worse than quality?

  • purin

    Was Epic Mickey just too expensive to break even, I wonder? Then again, this isn’t the first time a good, well-liked game has underperformed.

    Clearly, a LOT of love and care went into that game. There are some areas where it needs improvement, but it’s a lot of fun, and also nerdy as hell. I hope the talent that worked on it and finds good work. They deserve it.

  • http://dtoons.com/conroy Failing Art Student

    Wow. And Disney Interactive is coming over to SCAD tomorrow telling people about internship opportunities.

    • amid

      Just pretend that you didn’t read this then ;)

  • http://MrFun'sBlog Floyd Norman

    Disney has never successfully gotten this hi tech gaming thing. I started working with the Disney computer group way back in the early eighties using cheesy underpowered machines. They’ve had several name changes and management changes over the past 20 years.

    They’ve spent millions without any real success, but still they try. Such are the joys of being a big corporate player.

    • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

      How can a studio expect to be successful at anything if they gut their staff and rebuild after every project?

  • tgentry

    Sad to hear about so many people laid off. Best of luck to them in finding new employment.

    I was excited about Epic Mickey from the concept art, but my hopes sank when I saw it was a Wii exclusive (a system that could never live up to that art) and then they sank even further when I found out the game just wasn’t that good. It’s a shame as it piqued my son’s interest, but I had to tell him no. Same with Tron, which he and I also love. The ingredients are there for good games that people want to play but clearly they just aren’t pulling them off for whatever reason.

  • Scarabim

    From what I understand, Epic Mickey was NOT at fault. It’s sold nearly 2 million copies in America and Europe, which is pretty damn good. By contrast, the Tron:Legacy game sold around 160,000 copies. And according to the New York Times, Disney is pleased with Epic Mickey’s performance. Here are some highlights of the NYT article:

    - Disney says it is thrilled with the results for Epic Mickey

    - a megawatt marketing campaign, the largest in Disney history for a video game

    - the fastest-selling single-platform game in the company’s history

    - of the five top-selling console games in December, Epic Mickey was the only one that was not a sequel

    - worldwide sales … have been doing well. On a global basis, Epic Mickey could sell over four million units, according to Doug Creutz, an analyst at Cowen & Company.

    - Disney almost certainly left money on the table … according to analysts … missing the all-important post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend

    - Originally set to miss Christmas entirely until senior Disney executives stepped in and sped things up.

    - Those leaving recently (Disney’s digital media division) include Steve Wadsworth, the unit’s former president, and Graham Hopper, an executive vice president who shepherded Epic Mickey.

    Here’s the link to the article: http://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=122982

    • http://ramapithblog.blogspot.com David Gerstein

      It’s about time someone pointed this out. Thanks, Scarabim.

    • Justin

      Agreed about Epic Mickey not being a cause. Head over to the website for Disney Interactive Studios and take a look at their game list. Tell me how many of those games are bug successes. Can you think of any movie based games that are worth playing? Tangled, Princess and the Frog, Bolt, Up, Wall-E, or even Toy Story 3? Tron: Evolution? Either of the Narnia games? Any Pirates of the Caribbean games worth buying?

      • http://www.teamicogames.com gamingfan

        So its because of Tron:Legacy that profits werent as high?

        Shouldn’t game companies know better now that movie-based games don’t sell because they are always low in quality.

  • Toonio

    Epic mickey was an awesome game. Disney’s mistake on letting all those souls go will be other studio’s gain.

  • Laser Dog

    Congratulations to all the executives that get to keep their jobs!

  • Steven M.

    Jesus, give the men and women another chance, Disney.

  • http://www.ghiblicon.blogspot.com daniel thomas macinnes

    I wouldn’t blame Epic Mickey for Disney Interactive’s woes. If anything, their situation would have been far worse without that video game. The problem is the emphasis on highly expensive titles, $30-$50 million, that gambles the future of the development studios.

    “Social Games” is a shorthand for the emerging genre of shorter, compact, arcade-oriented video games. They’re focused largely on smart phones and social media sites like Facebook (hence the name), but Nintendo DS and Wii are also home to Social Games. Some excellent examples: Brain Age, Nintendogs, Animal Crossing, Wii Sports, Wii Play, Just Dance.

    Hope that helps to explain things.

  • Rick R.

    Epic Mickey had the camera issues, and the TRON game, though it had a more coherent story than the movie and some really good voice acting, had a very hard to learn control scheme where some of it felt like random chance as to if you would make it through a level or not. Since the bad guy was all about efficiency and you were running through service tunnels, the parkour you had to do made little sense.

    And it’s worst sin was that the single player game didn’t have any light cycle levels comparable to that in the films. The light cycles were more of a racer type game instead of a battle on a grid where you make the light walls go up game.

    That said, I played it through twice and really enjoyed it by the end, but few players would have had the patience required to really figure out how the game worked.

    And I agree with daniel macinnes, if the games were cheaper to produce, it would have helped.

  • Obo

    The PCWorld article is extremely misleading to flat out disinformation. There should be no surprise many people left Epic Mickey. Disney very publicly loaded a ton of freelance and contract workers onto that project. 300 people worked on by end, from a staring point of 100 permanent. The permanent staff is still there. The contractors left.

    I wouldn’t listen to “analysts” either. Many of them predicted the game would do similar to Tron’s 160,000 mainly based off the popular belief in the gaming press that only nintendo games sell on Nintendo platform. The argument that is selling over a million units is somehow disappointing on a worldwide sale is a joke

  • http://www.artware.mx Arturo

    Disney should license its properties to 3rd party developers, instead of making its own games (like it used to do in the NES/SNES era).

    This way, the risk is minimum (if there is any).

  • Marc Baker

    Maybe if the game was called ‘Epic Miley’, it would’ve sold millions like ‘Hanna Montana’ Guitar Hero’. All kidding aside, It’s a shame this game didn’t do as well as Disney hoped it would. The overall opinions with this game are mixed. You would think that people would’ve figured how to make a good camera system in games by now, but apparently, some developers can’t seem to grasp that. I still would like to try this out.

    • Scarabim

      Read my earlier post. The game did do well.

  • Fitzwilly

    I believe ‘Epic Eisner’ is in order. The mind reels.

  • http://www.teamicogames.com gamingfan

    Maybe Disney should’nt focus on movie-based games if Tron:Legacy game sold so very little.

    Everyone knows that movie-based games aren’t that good.