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Disney Says It’s Never Been Good at Video Games, Remains Happy With EA’s Work

The Walt Disney Company has a “good relationship” with Electronic Arts and has no interest in returning to video games, something with which it was never able to “demonstrate much skill,” CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call Tuesday.

“We’re good at making movies and television shows and theme parks and cruise ships and the like, we’ve just never managed to demonstrate much skill on the publishing side of games,” Iger said in response to a question about Disney’s potential future involvement in video game development.

The Walt Disney Company has been shedding its video game development and publishing interests almost as long as it’s been in the business of making interactive entertainment. Over the course of decades, Disney has created, and purchased studios and publishers only to later shut them down. In 2016, Disney discontinued the highly-regarded “Disney Infinity” franchise and closed down the developer, ending all self-publishing efforts. That effort continued in 2018 with the closing of “Club Penguin Island: and the sale of “Emoji Blitz.”

Walt Disney also partnered with Electronic Arts in 2013, granting the developer exclusive video game rights to Star Wars franchise. That decision was thrown into question recently with EA’s handling of a number of its Star Wars games. “Star Wars Battlefront II” came under fire for its use of questionable microtransaction loot boxes, and EA recently announced it had killed off one of its games, turning it into a smaller project.

Coincidentally, Electronic Arts was holding its earnings call at the same time as Disney. During its call, EA confirmed that another Star Wars game, “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” would be out this year. 

Iger seemed either unaware of some of the drama surrounding EA’s recent handling of the Star Wars brand or unconcerned when an analyst asked him for his thoughts on where video games fit into Disney’s business moving forward.

“We’re obviously mindful of the size of that business,” Iger said. “Over the years, as you know, we’ve tried our hand at self-publishing, we’ve bought companies, we’ve sold companies, we’ve bought developers, we’ve closed developers. And we’ve found over the years that we haven’t been particularly good at the self-publishing side, but we’ve been great at the licensing side which obviously doesn’t require that much allocation of capital.

“Since we’re allocating capital in other directions … we’ve just decided that the best place for us to be in that space is licensing and not publishing. We’ve had good relationships with some of those we’re licensing to, notably EA and the relationship on the Star Wars properties, and we’re probably going to stay on that side of the business and put our capital elsewhere.”

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