The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is reporting that Disney Interactive is getting ready to lay off several hundred employees from its global workforce. The layoffs are expected to begin shortly after the company releases its latest quarterly results - which will happen tomorrow. Currently the company employs about 3,000 people across various studios.
Disney's game and toy tie-up Disney Infinity has managed to sell through three million "starter packs" according to the New York Times. The game launched in August of 2013 and managed to move three million units. Starter packs come with the game, an Infinity Base peripheral, three character figures, three Play Sets, one Disc and unique Web codes for online and mobile content. The Xbox 360 version of the starter pack starts at right around $80.
The Walt Disney Company is reorganizing its video games and media groups under the auspices of Disney Interactive, according to a GII report. The company will merge the two group together and current co-president Jimmy Pitaro will take charge of the division. Co-President John Pleasants will be leaving his current post, but he will reportedly work closely with Pitaro "to ensure a smooth transition and serve as a strategic consultant to the business."
Last week we asked our readers, "How do you feel about games that require you to buy toys to access game content (Skylanders, Disney Infinity)?" Nearly half of those who voted said that this practice of tying toys to video games to unlock access to characters, levels, and other game content is a complete rip-off for consumers.
Disney announced that it will shut down its kid-friendly MMO Toontown Online in less than a month. The only silver lining for subscribers is that they will get unfettered access to all of the games extra services. Toontown Online is a fairly non-violent MMMO that lets kids fight against menacing toons called "Cogs" (who don't like fun) using pies and other non-lethal weapons.
Electronic Arts announced that it has secured a multi-year, multi-title licensing agreement with Disney to create multiple Star Wars games. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, nor were any of the games that EA plans on making. The announcement was made by President of EA Labels Frank Gibeau on EA's official blog.
While the focus has been on the closure of Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios yesterday, the LA Times is reporting that additional employees working for Disney's games division were laid off as well. Citing an anonymous source inside the company who was "not authorized to discuss the matter publicly," the LA Times reports that 50 more employees lost their jobs at Disney Interactive yesterday.
Polygon has confirmed that Epic Mickey developer Warren Spector is no longer a part of Disney's games business. He along with everyone else at Junction Point Studios is now out of work.
Double Fine's Ron Gilbert wants the Monkey Island franchise back from Disney. The creator of the popular point-and-click adventure game franchise lost the rights to Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion after he left LucasArts. Then the company decided to sell the franchise off to Disney. Gilbert thinks that Disney doesn't know what to do with the franchise and is just letting it languish. He describes the situation as very sad.
"Yeah, I wish I owned Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, you know?," said Gilbert.
Engage Digital announced that three different divisions of The Walt Disney Company will take part in The App Conference by providing a "unique and powerful keynote" at the event. The App Conference takes place October 18-19, 2012 in Santa Clara, California.
In its second year, the App Conference focuses on application development, marketing and revenue generation on mobile and tablet devices. The conference program features two tracks covering the important elements of product and business strategies in the mobile space.
In the wake of Sulake's problems with Habbo, Disney has decided to spend $4.7 million on an internet safety campaign for its popular massively-multiplayer online game for kids, Club Penguin. The announcement was made by the game's co-founder Lane Merrifield today. The internet safety campaign hopes to target more than 100 million children and parents around the world who use Club Penguin.
If you are taking your family on a Disney Fantasy Cruise any time soon, you may be happy to hear that video games are an important part of the cruise's entertainment offerings. The interactive entertainment offerings are in two brand new $1 billion ships sailing the Caribbean: the Disney Magic and the Disney Fantasy.
According to a Forbes report, Disney has applied for the trademark "Seal Team 6," the military unit responsible for the death of notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden. A day after the raid (which took place May 3 in Pakistan), Disney applied for a trio of patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office related to "entertainment and education services," toys, games, and Christmas stockings, ornaments and snow globes.. Yes, Christmas items.
Disney has not publicly commented on the outed patents.
Though not confirmed by Disney Interactive Media Group, at least 80 employees, or two percent of its workforce are rumored to be laid off. According to web site paidContent, co-president Jimmy Pitaro led the latest cuts, which follows the loss of around 200 employees in January. The company has lost a total of seven percent of its 4000 strong workforce in 2011.
Disney has been cutting staff as part of a reorganization plan that saw it close Turok developer Propaganda Games and laid off staff at Warren Specter’s Junction Point. paidContent further reports that this latest round of layoffs will be the last and was what Disney had called "targeted layoffs" as part of its restructuring plan.
Disney Interactive Studios has laid off a large number of its staff at multiple studios according to several published reports. While the exact number is unknown at this point (some are saying half of its 700 employees, others say around 250) the affected studios include Junction Point and Black Rock. Last week it was revealed that Disney closed its Propaganda Games studio.
A Disney representative told Variety: "As part of setting a strategic direction for future success in the digital media space, the Disney Interactive Media Group today began a restructuring process," Disney said in a statement.
Disney Interactive Studios has shut down its Vancouver-based development studio Propaganda Games, according to this GameSpot report. Propaganda had just finished the development of TRON: Evolution for various platforms. The tie-in game to the film TRON: Legacy didn't do as well as Disney had hoped.
Propaganda Games was founded in 2005 by ex-EA employees and Disney. The studio hasn't had the best of luck in the last few years. The company saw layoffs in 2009 as it was developing a new Turok game and in October of 2010 saw additional cuts when Disney cancelled the action role-playing game Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned.
While most will not care that Disney Interactive has cancelled the Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned, some will be discouraged to hear that developer Propaganda Games has laid off a number of employees as a side effect. The company is also working on the upcoming Tron: Evolution game and the DLC that will follow the game's release in December. That development team remains unscathed.
Here is the official statement from an unnamed Disney Interactive representative (from Joystiq):
Walt Disney is in talks with social game company Playdom to buy them out for an estimated $500 million, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing sources familiar with the situation. Those "people" say that Disney's plan is to use the Mountain View, California-based company to incorporate its popular brands and characters into social games. Disney already has a deal with Playdom to develop social games using Disney's ESPN brand and is an investor in Playdom through its Steamboat Ventures venture-capital fund. The Disney fund recently participated in a $33 million financing round, bringing to $76 million the total financing raised by the start-up, Playdom said in the past.
Of the biggest social game makers, Playdom ranks third behind Zynga and Playfish. The company has 42 million active users playing its game a month on Facebook, compared to Zynga's 211 million. Still, Disney is less interested in Playdom's games and more interested in its ability to create them. For them this acquisition is more about developing its own properties and less abpout originality.
A Texas-based company has filed a lawsuit alleging that a group of game makers violated its patent related to voice recognition technology.
Filed on November 10 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, plaintiff Bareis Technologies, LLC names Ubisoft, Inc. Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc., Electronic Arts, Inc. and Disney Interactive Studios, Inc. The lawsuit revolves around a U.S. Patent for “Optical Disk Having Speech Recognition Templates for Information Access,” which Bareis owns.
The games specifically called out as infringing in the complaint are Ubi Soft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Jungle Storm, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2 Summit Strike, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2, and Tom Clancy’s EndWar, SCEA’s SoCom: U.S. Navy SEALs, SoCom II: U.S. Navy SEALs, SoCom III: U.S. Navy SEALs, SoCom Combined Assault, EA’s NASCAR 06 and NASCAR 07 and Disney’s Phonics Quest.
The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial and “all damages caused by the infringement of the ‘407 patent, which by statute can be no less than a reasonable royalty.”
Has the hunter become the hunted?
Electronic Arts, which pursued GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive for much of 2008, may now be an acquisition target of Disney.
According to financial website The Motley Fool, the Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column suggested yesterday that Disney might be eyeing EA. The WSJ apparently based their speculation on comments made by Disney's Chief Financial Officer during a conference call on Tuesday. From the Fool:
Asked if Disney's focus would be on developing in-house games over buying more developers, [CFO Tom] Staggs responded, "I don't want you to conclude that those are in the long term mutually exclusive." He went on to say that a "strategic and attractive" purchase would be "a possibility" for the family entertainment giant.
Did he say Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS)? No. However, a combination of EA's battered share price and Disney's desire to ramp up its gaming presence dovetail nicely in the rumor mill.
The Motley Fool offers five reasons why a Disney takeover of EA makes sense:
Still, The Motley Fool views the chances of a Disney-EA deal as slim. And, it's pretty clear that, when it talks about acquisitions, family-friendly Disney isn't thinking of Take-Two and GTA.
Turnabout, as they say, is fair play.
While Electronic Arts spent the better part of 2008 in a futile bid to acquire Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive, the Wall Street Journal suggests that EA itself has the makings of a tasty takeover morsel.
In a bold call in Saturday’s Heard On The Street column, the Wall Street Journal proposed that Disney (DIS) ought to buy Electronic Arts (ERTS). The piece note that the timing is right, after a significant earnings miss last week knocked down the video game publisher’s stock 18% on Friday. The piece concludes that “Disney would be gutsy to step up during the current economic uncertainty. But it might be better than waiting for better times and paying top dollar.”
...EA does have a lucrative sports franchise that includes the Madden football games; Disney owns ESPN. It’s an interesting theory. But I would note that it appears simply to be a theory, not something that the Journal believes is happening right now.