As of Monday evening, several reports around the net have indicated that Disney Interactive, Disney’s game development department, had laid off a large portion of its staff across several studios. As CNBC has it, sources close to the company have solidified this news.
Among the studios taking a big hit in layoffs is Junction Point. Junction Point is the studio helmed by Warren Spector that recently released Epic Mickey. According to CNBC, the studio may have lost as much as nearly half of its 700 person staff.
Gaming enthusiasts that follow the news closely are likely familiar with the layoff practices of some companies. There have been several instances over the last few years where a company has released a game only to close or cut the studio behind it weeks or months after. Black Box, the company behind Skate, saw cuts after a release. Ensemble was told they’d be shutting down entirely even before Halo Wars hit shelves. Whether it’s in anticipation of lackluster sales (probably not) or the need for companies to pull in slack as they can, this occurrence isn’t new.
I spoke with Warren Spector for an in-depth feature for another gaming site (CraveOnline.com) a few months back. He indicated that the new head of Disney Interactive, John Pleasants, would usher in a change for the company and the games it makes. He explained that Disney wanted to start making first rate titles again and move away from quick and dirty projects. He did not indicate, however, that this would come in the form of mass firings. Though I honestly doubt Spector had any idea.
One studio in particular has been shuttered entirely due to these happenings. Propaganda Games, the folks behind the cancelled Pirates of the Caribbean project and Tron: Evolution, has been closed.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Disney Interactive has a stable of properties to build incredible games from. Were layoff rounds necessary for that to come to fruition? Only time will tell.