Disney entered into a deal with mobile-games studio Jam City to develop titles based on Pixar and Walt Disney Animation franchises — including one tied to next year’s “Frozen” sequel — and is shutting down its games studio group in Glendale, Calif., with those employees to be offered jobs by Jam City.
Under the mulityear deal, Disney is licensing the rights to “Emoji Blitz,” a popular puzzle and collecting game, to Jam City. In addition, Jam City will offer 43 employees of Disney’s Glendale studio positions to continue working on Disney-related games.
Financial terms of the pact aren’t being disclosed. The agreement is part of Disney’s long-term shift to licensing intellectual property for games rather developing them in-house, a strategy fully set in motion in 2016 with the company’s shutdown of the Infinity toys-to-life game.
Disney has previously licensed other Disney Animation and Pixar properties to third-party games developers. But the Jam City deal “represents a significant long-term opportunity for our games business and for the future slate of Disney and Pixar games,” Kyle Laughlin, Disney’s senior VP of games and interactive experiences, said in a statement.
Laughlin added, “We can’t wait to see how Jam City and the incredibly talented team behind ‘Disney Emoji Blitz’ will grow the already successful game and franchise, and how Jam City will bring their global reach and expertise in developing successful, enduring mobile games to the upcoming titles.”
Popular on Variety
Jam City plans to continue developing and creating new content for “Disney Emoji Blitz,” the free-to-play matching game that lets players collect and play with over 1,500 Disney, Pixar and Star Wars emoji, as well as earn prizes, complete missions, and share their collected emoji. The first new game under the Jam City-Disney partnership will be based on Disney Animation’s “Frozen 2,” currently slated to hit theaters Nov. 22, 2019.
“Disney is the world’s leader in beloved characters and brands that have engaged generations of fans for decades,” said Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and CEO of Jam City. “Disney is making sure its IP is in expert hands because they know we’re going to create great mobile entertainment experiences.”
DeWolfe said he’s hopeful that Jam City can hire the full team from Disney’s Glendale group. “We’re looking forward to growing that studio,” he said. “Between ‘Emoji Blitz’ and getting ‘Frozen’ ready from pre-production to production, it’s going to be a full-time job.”
Jam City is the studio behind “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery,” the mobile role-playing game set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World developed in partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Since launching this past April, the game has grossed $90 million in revenue and has over 41 million installs worldwide, according to research firm App Annie.
Other top Jam City games include “Cookie Jam,” “Panda Pop,” “Family Guy: Another Freakin’ Mobile Game” and “Marvel Avengers Academy.”
Going forward, DeWolfe said, about half of Jam City’s games will be based on intellectual property from entertainment companies like Disney and Warner Bros., with the other half comprising original IP.
Privately held Jam City currently has about 650 employees worldwide (excluding the employees it plans to add from Disney’s Glendale team). The L.A.-based company, founded in 2009 and formerly called SGN, bought games studio TinyCo in 2016. Jam City investors include South Korea’s Netmarble Games and Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Expeditions.