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Disney confirms Junction Point closure

Disney confirms Junction Point closure

Tue 29 Jan 2013 1:55am GMT / 8:55pm EST / 5:55pm PST
BusinessRumour

Epic Mickey development team shut down "to align resources against our key priorities," Warren Spector gone from Disney as well

UPDATE: A Disney spokesperson confirmed the closure for GamesIndustry International and provided the following comment:

It was with much sadness that we informed our teams today of changes to our Games organization, which include the closure of Junction Point Studios. These changes are part of our ongoing effort to address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities. We're extremely grateful to Warren Spector and the Junction Point team for their creative contributions to Disney with Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey 2.

The original story follows below:

The word is spreading that Warren Spector's Junction Point studio, developer of the Epic Mickey franchise, has been shut down by Disney. Chris Robert's studio Roberts Space Industries tweeted this morning: "Second 21 gun salute for a studio in 7 days. Fare-the-well Junction Point! We hope that you all find new studios soon!" The tweet has since been removed, and RSI tweeted "Our posting about Junction Point was based on a story by http://mynintendonews.com this AM. CIG has no inside info on their status." In their story My Nintendo News currently cites the Roberts Space Industries post, making the actual source of the news uncertain.

The co-founder of 3D Realms, George Broussard, tweeted "the Junction Point rumors have been circulating a while. Warning signs when you give employees 2 months off after shipping." Epic Mickey 2 registered a disappointing Metacritic score of 59 on the PS3 and 360, 56 on the Wii U and 64 on the Wii. In a recent story, the LA Times stated that according to a source Epic Mickey 2 has only sold 270,000 units in the USA from November through the end of the year, compared to 1.3 million units for Epic Mickey in the same time period.

"The games business for Disney has not been profitable and not met the same level of excellence we have in ABC or our parks or Pixar," said the new head of Disney's games business John Pleasants in a interview at the launch of Disney Infinity.

There has been no official word from Disney yet about the future of Junction Point. GamesIndustry International has reached out to Disney for an official response and will update the story at that time.

7 Comments

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

459 738 1.6
The moment reviews started coming in, I knew the end was near for Junction Point. It was surprising to me that they kept them open in the first place, considering their policy of licensing and closing down anyone who wasn't working on social games. A game like Epic Mickey lives and dies on word of mouth, and once the scores started coming in, sales did it in. I knew right then and there that Disney - a company that was essentially looking for any excuse to close down a AAA studio - was going to kill it.

It sucks, but maybe they can go somewhere and still be successful.

Posted:A year ago

#1
I figured they were being closed, and they sort-of knew it - which is why Mickey 2 wasn't finished properly, to any decent level of quality.

It always did seem an anomaly to me, that a company like Disney was so weak in gaming circles.

They should do something like sign a 2-3 year contract with Nintendo (or other big studio) for an open licensing agreement, and revenue sharing (from related titles). Or just invest in a big publisher (EA/Activision) and become a real force in both publishing and development - they certainly have the cash.

Posted:A year ago

#2
This is a harsh testimony of the consumer games industry - a great game sequel was scuppered because of politics and financial double dealing; the knowledge that the developer was looking down a barrel no matter what they did!

You would not see the film, or music, industry attempt this fiasco... that said, in the past there are examples of the politics getting in the way of the creativity that marred the music, television and film presentations of the 80's (and more recently).

Would seem that video gaming is reaching the same cross-roads - shape-up its development capability and remove the suits from the mix,... or implode?

Posted:A year ago

#3

Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor

407 205 0.5
If Disney want excellence in the field of games then first they need to understand them. And the first step in that process is realising that it should be treated as a medium in its own right not as an extension of their franchising.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Jason Avent VP, Studio Head, NaturalMotion

139 140 1.0
Speaking as a casualty of Disney's games publishing demise, I actually think it's the reverse Patrick. Many of Disney's businesses outside of movies, parks and resorts are based on licensing their properties out to get a royalty. All the toys, clothes and other merchandise are made by third parties - often not even designed by Disney people. They'll make more money with less risk if they just license their properties out to other interactive publishers who know what they're doing in console, mobile or social game dev - or whatever the next big thing is! Disney are too large and conservative to be fast-moving enough to respond to the rapid changes we see in the videogame business. They have seen some success on mobile with Where's My Water (Well done Tim!) but by Disney's standards, it's a drop in the ocean. (If you pardon the pun) Disney don't need to own the whole value chain in order to make like bandits. Their properties are strong enough for them to demand a large slice of the pie just for using their IP. Why they ever got into the 'making' games business is a mystery to me. I think some people at the top got asked some difficult questions and came up with the wrong answers.

Posted:A year ago

#5
@Jason, WDC is not really married to digital media - dependent on 'champions' from their executive pool, and once they bale the interests wanes. If you work on a WDC project (be it park, film or media) when you see your president announce he is moving on, its best to starting printing your cv! Like with Apple currently, no real passion from the company just from small pockets of executives who are eventually hounded out.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

459 738 1.6
What's strange is that despite everything Jason brought up, they were still making very good games. Epic Mickey was good. Where's My Water is also very good, and bucked the trend of freemium (it'd be hard to justify Disney, the company of children, going with a purchasing model that historically gets very messy for kids overpurchasing things on their parents' behalf, but that's why I'm not a beancounter). In fact, if one goes back in time, Disney video game properties with their major franchises (no, sitcoms like That's So Raven and Hannah Montana don't count) have always had a very polished sheen around them.

Then again, a lot of those games - particularly the NES games of the 80s, and 16 bit games like Aladdin, Lion King and Mickey Mania, were outsourced to other developers (Capcom, Virgin Interactive, Traveler's Tales respectively).

Posted:A year ago

#7

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