Epic Mickey probably wasn't the salve Disney needed to heal its money-hemorrhaging game studio, as reports the company has laid off as many as half its video game development staff circulate. Guesses yesterday put the number of jobs lost at anywhere from 200 to half the studio's roughly 700 employees, and while we're hearing closer to 200 this morning, the bloom's clearly off the Magic Kingdom's video game efforts.
How much money has Disney Interactive been losing? Bloomberg says $234 million during the studio's last fiscal year. And yesterday's job losses are actually round two of cuts: Last week, Disney shuttered Propaganda Games, its Canada-based subsidiary responsible for stuff like Turok (2008), Tron: Evolution (2010), and the now-cancelled action-roleplaying game Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned.
What about Junction Point Studios and Epic Mickey? Touted as a deal-maker for Disney and a rethink of the company's traditionally tie-in heavy approach to gaming, Epic Mickey--an original take on the company's iconic mascot--moved a respectable 1.3 million units in the U.S. during December, it's first month of sales. But rumor has it the worldwide number remains well below Disney expectations.
Not that Disney's saying as much. A spokesperson for the company told the New York Times earlier this month that it was "thrilled" with results, and that Epic Mickey was "the fastest-selling single-platform game in the company's history."
Analysts paint a different picture. They've cited the game's awkward launch date--November 30, unusually late in the holiday cycle--and exclusivity to the Nintendo Wii as critical missed opportunities.
Disney's spinning its game studio job cuts as a "restructuring process," one that involves a shift to the "digital media space," by which they really mean two things: Online, and social. Put another way, the company's probably backing away from console commitments and instead moving into online and mobile platforms, like Facebook, Android, and Apple iOS.
How do we know? In part because Disney dropped an unprecedented $763 million on social game studio Playdom last summer. And just today, the company named former EA mobile worldwide publishing senior VP Adam Sussman to the position of Disney Interactive senior vice president of publishing.
What this means for Epic Mickey developer Junction Point Studio remains to be seen, but word is the studio wasn't spared when Disney swung the axe, leaving hundreds suddenly (and unexpectedly) jobless.