Licensing is best model for Disney in games, CEO Iger says

Licensing is best model for Disney in games, CEO Iger says

The CEO of Walt Disney has said what we've been thinking for years - the House of Mouse isn't great at making video games.

Asked on an investor call - as transcribed by Seeking Alpha - about where games sit in Disney's business moving forwards, CEO Robert Iger says that its skills don't lie in the self-publishing side of things. Rather, what works for the entertainment giant is licensing.

The top exec mentions EA as one of the partners that it has a great relationship in the games space. What is omitted from this answer is the controversy at the end of 2017, which saw Disney - maybe even Iger himself, depending who you believe - calling up EA's CEO Andrew Wilson to discuss the PR disaster that was Star Wars Battlefront II's launch and aggressive monetisation strategy. This saw the game drop its loot box business model at launch, with a revised version of this returning later in 2018.

"We're obviously mindful of the size of [the video game] business," Iger said

"But over the years, as you know, we've tried our hand in self-publishing. We've bought companies. We've sold companies. We've bought developers. We've closed developers.

"And we 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. And since we're allocating capital in other directions, even though we certainly have the ability to allocate more capital, we've just decided that the best place for us to be in that space is licensing and not publishing.

"And 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 continue - we're going to continue to stay in that side of the business and put our capital elsewhere.

"We're good at making movies and television shows and theme park attractions and cruise ships and the like, and we've just never managed to demonstrate much scale on the publishing side of games."

Disney made a concerted effort to make video games work during the late 2000s and early 2010s, but lost $200m a year between 2008 and 2013. Ultimately, the firm closed down studios including Black Rock, Junction Point and Propaganda Games. It also pretty much shut down LucasArts, leaving it as a body to handle licensing IP to other companies.

Junction Point was Deus Ex legend Warren Spector's studio where the development vet made the Epic Mickey games. We caught up with the man himself about this in 2017

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.