Disney: â??The era of relying on a licence to sell games is overâ??

Disney: â??The era of relying on a licence to sell games is overâ??
Michael French

By Michael French

October 25th 2007 at 2:50PM

Euro production VP also reaffirms plan to treble games spending and says deals with local studios are already signed

Ed Bainbridge, the European VP of production for Disney, has told Develop that the media giant is still on track to boost its spending on games development over the next few years - and said the company will beat other big film studios getting into the games industry thanks to the quality of its products, not just licences.

Speaking to us as part of an exclusive profile of Brighton, UK-based Black Rock Studio, which it acquired a year ago, Bainbridge discussed at length Disney's plans in the games industry and how it will compare to the equally bullish moves into interactive entertainment by the likes of Warner Interactive.

“Big media companies are looking at the games industry and realise it’s a big growth market," he said. "Simply existing in games on a licensing model isn’t the best way to make money, and we’re definitely not alone in realising that.

"And as far as quality of games is concerned you can exert a certain amount of control when you manage production directly. In the past there was an over reliance on the licence to sell the game rather than the quality of the game, its creativity or innovation," he added.

Disney is currently beefing up its games portfolio - while 70 per cent of its product line-up will be based on owned properties from the Walt Disney Company stable, another 20 per cent are to be based on wholly new IPs, and another 10 per cent will be new IPs published under the Touchstone brand.

The firm currently owns five in house studios. Some of those, such as the Wii and DS exclusive Fall Line team established last year, are being charged with making licence-based titles that do justice to their source material rather than being quick cash-ins, said Bainbridge: "Gone are the days when anyone can rely on a licence to sell a game - the market is sophisticated now."

Brighton-based Black Rock, meanwhile, is one of those studios working hard on a new IP, making a racing title due to be announced and released next year.

The studio was acquired from Climax last year, just one of a handful of global investments the company is making in games development. It bought Warren Spector's Junction Point studio earlier this year, and games development boss Graham Hopper has said the company is building up to eventually spend $350m a year on games development over the next few years.

"Look at the growth that has taken place in Disney Interactive Studios over the last four years and it’s been hugely accelarted. We’ve amassed five internal studios in a relatively short period of time and we also continue to enjoy great external partnerships with studios," explained Bainbridge, adding that a project has already been placed with a studio in Russia and another European studio has also been signed for another new game.

He added: "We’ve grown from no capacity to a big resource and that will keep building over the next three to five years."

More comments from Bainbridge and Black Rock Studio GM Tony Beckwith can be found in our feature, here.