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More Disney, Junction Point staff axed - report

Tue 25 Jan 2011 7:31am GMT / 2:31am EST / 11:31pm PST
PublishingDevelopment

Epic Mickey team latest to suffer as Disney shifts to digital

Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios has been hit with layoffs following the release of its latest title, Wii-exclusive Epic Mickey.

According to a report by CNBC, up to half of the 700 members of staff at Disney Interactive Studios have been affected - the latest move by the entertainment company as it shifts away from the traditional console videogame business.

A statement issued to Variety did not clarify numbers but confirmed Disney was making cuts.

"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."

Last week Disney closed Turok developer Propaganda Games after completion of the latest Tron game and the cancellation last year of a Pirates of the Caribbean title.

The entertainment company said in its last earnings call that it was investing less in the console space as it migrated to digital formats, following another full-year loss for the games division. Playdom exec John Pleasants was recently appointed co-president of the games segment last year to oversee the changes.

Disney's UK development team, Black Rock Studios, recently finished work on racing title Split/Second.

GamesIndustry.biz has requested further information from Disney.

15 Comments

Thomas Palpant Writer/editor for Gamebible.biz, a french industry videogames website

6 0 0.0
I don't understand, is it the Junction Point staff, or the Disney Interactive staff, which has been axed by half?

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Jordan Woodward Level Designer, Codemasters Birmingham

44 0 0.0
@ Thomas. From reading the CNBC site, it looks like it's half of the Disney staff, not just Junction point. It's an incredible amount of staff to lay off though.

I'm hoping Black Rock don't get hit by Disney's latest shift.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Iain Douglas Lead Artist, Makemedia

2 0 0.0
The big guys come along a buy up the small developers who are eager for that corporate security, nurturing and marketing power. Then just as quickly the big guys tire of their toys and wait for them to ship their latest title before binning them. I bet everyone in the studio works all the hours possible to make an amazing product in the hope it will secure their jobs too. If Disney do anything bad to Black Rock that'll be a disgrace and a real kick in the balls for an industry that has just effectively lost Bizarre too. There won't be the media outcry that's deserved either.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

David Shenoda Producer & Game Designer

2 4 2.0
#4
I think if Disney does anything to Black Rock, Climax will have words with em, as they were reluctant to part with Climax Racing, and all sorts of conditions were put into place + long term wooing process that eventually resulted in Black Rock (2006/07). Of course, owners tend to do whatever with their acquisitions... Look at the acquisition of Cadbury by Kraft. A whole swath of heritage, family practise and trade decimated for the bottom dollar.

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Armando Marini Product Development, Big Viking Games

16 0 0.0
It the reality of console gaming today. Hit or die. With the cost of a full release console game being so high, and the odds of losing your money being against you, looking for another way is the only alternative. This story will be repeated many times over the next few years.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Iain Douglas Lead Artist, Makemedia

2 0 0.0
@Armando...the answer is what though? Many small but insecure indies producing small bite size titles for social media? We need bigger studios to make bigger titles.

Is having your company bought by a publisher is a poisoned chalice?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Iain Douglas on 25th January 2011 1:53pm

Posted:3 years ago

#7

Phil Williams principle artist, Black Rock Studio

5 0 0.0
If we are going to continue to make big budget movie busting games we need become more like the model the film industry has been using for years..... small but efficient main teams with pools of well paid freelance talent to call on when needed.

...and preferably all in one place of course ;)

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.

2,271 2,439 1.1
Sad considering Epic Mickey has been a great financial success.

I know it's common policy for many studios to shave off excess staff after production of a big title where they would no longer have a need for a staff that size but I can't tell if that's the situation here or something more nefarious.

Posted:3 years ago

#9

Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member

144 14 0.1
Yea, that game was too successful to make a move like that... Or at least I thought it was...

Posted:3 years ago

#10
I think if you're a Indie studio, you have to negotiate certain terms of either

1/ Being bought out - and being able to retain some independant status, manage local staffing, etc
2/ Co-development - retain some degree of independance, and mitigating the risk by allowing the publisher to dictate certain aspects related to the game being co produced (for that duration)
3/ or cash up and bug out.

Perhaps there is some safety in joining certain large names, that have a shared pool of talent/resources eg. ubisoft, sony worldwide studios, or allied interest as a group eg. Foundation 9, etc

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Steven Pick Lead Graphic Designer, Atomhawk Design

70 14 0.2
Really don't understand this - Epic Mickey did very well for a Wii third party title and this is the thanks Junction Point gets? I seriously believe that in this ruthless climate, the smaller and more focused dev studios will win out against the larger studios. These smaller studios also benefit by running themselves rather than have a larger corporate body which can ultimately decide their fate - look at Bizarre Creations for a recent example to this.

It's more developer layoffs and it's more reason to worry about the future of our industry.

Posted:3 years ago

#12
I think its a case of bottom dollar economics.
Make the staff crunch, work overtime, and at the end of the production, release any human assets that are not core to the business.

This film like production method can be quite cruel and harsh for ongoing development in games, where folks are not used to contractual comings/goings of production. Perhaps for the family orientated appraoch towards growing and maintaining a developer status, means NOT growing too big.

Perhaps a model of:

Family Unit: Tight network of staff with multiple core roles
Small Indie: 2-8 man team (staffed with developers with 4-5 yrs experiences minimum) --->
Growing Indie: 20-25 man team (70-30 % Experienced/ new talent)

Baby Corporate Developer: Established but has growing bandwidth to take on multiple core projects
Moderate Size Indie: 30-80 man team ----- > upwards to a 120 man team (Established Team A + B)

Teams bigger than this, are probably overtly large & corporate. They do have significant bandwidth to undertake 2 -3 major titles however. InterRelations could be impersonal beyond your established tribe
eg. art department has 3-4 tribes of artist, team leads vs other departments, etc. However, if one major title gets canned, chances are there can be significant job losses.

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Mark Raymond Gamer; Consumer; Blogger

40 0 0.0
I don't think there is anything sinister going on here. It really sucks for the people losing their jobs, but my gut tells me that Disney was expecting their games to perform better, and they just didn't hit expectations. It's a shame, because I can't imagine anybody wanting this to happen. I think it's simply the reality of big-budget games development nowadays. To justify the kind of investment being put in, these titles need to be big winners.

Posted:3 years ago

#14

Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos

112 0 0.0
We wont be like the games industry until our first question on starting a new project isn't "Okay, what sort of camera are we building this time?"

You canot expect the efficiencies of Hollywood until we stop reinventing our techology at every opportunity.

I frankly think the console space has "bigger and better"ed itself to death. Lots of very experienced and successful developers are fleeing those waters for places where you dont have to bet tens of millions of dollars and years of work on every release.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 25th January 2011 10:38pm

Posted:3 years ago

#15

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