At one point in time, media giant Disney published video games like Disney Infinity and Epic Mickey in-house through its now-defunct Disney Interactive Studios. That’s no longer the case, as it now primarily licenses its franchises to outside studios instead. One major partner is Electronic Arts. In 2013, Disney and EA signed a 10-year deal to make EA the exclusive publisher of Star Wars games on console, and now Disney chief Bob Iger has commented on the company’s philosophy about publishing games and its relationship with EA.
He said on an earnings call that Disney’s history of internal development and publishing of games has been shaky, so he’s happy that Disney has now shifted to a licensing model.
“Over the years 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’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,” Iger said.
Regarding EA specifically, Iger said Disney’s relationship with the publisher has been “good,” despite what could be seen as issues recently.
“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 to stay on that side of the business and put our capital elsewhere,” he said.
While Disney has been enormously successful in the areas of making its own movies, theme parks, cruise ships, and TV shows, video games have been a tough nut to crack. “We’ve never managed to demonstrate much skill on the publishing side of games,” Iger said.
EA has released two Star Wars console games, Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Battlefront II, since its licensing deal with Disney began in 2013. The next one is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Titanfall developer Respawn that is due out this fall. In other news, it was recently reported that EA canceled an open-world Star Wars game, with its developer EA Vancouver, now focusing on a smaller-scale project that can be released sooner. EA maintains that it is “fully committed” to making more Star Wars games as part of its deal with Disney.
2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront was an enormous success, shipping more than 14 million copies. The sequel, which was criticised for its loot box mechanics, shipped 9 million copies at launch.
Assuming EA’s deal with Disney for Star Wars video games hasn’t been updated, it runs until 2023. Unlike wholly owned franchises like Battlefield and Dragon Age, EA must pay Disney a licensing fee for its Star Wars games. However, the specific terms of the licensing agreement between Disney and EA is unknown.