"Jury still out" on Big Media's chances in games development

By Michael French in San Francisco

February 19th 2008 at 8:13AM

THQ CEO Brian Farrell airs some scepticism of Disney and Viacom's game plan in WSJ report

Just because they are cash-rich and brand-ubiquitous doesn't necessarily mean the Big Media firms moving into games are going to succeed - at least, that's the view of THQ CEO Brian Farrell.

Speaking in a new report in the Wall Street Journal Farrell, whose firm lost out the right to develop a game based on Pixar's Toy Story 3 to Disney's own internal development talent, said that in his tenure in the games industry he'd seen big entertainment firms repeatedly attempt to enter the games space with mixed results.

"I've seen this before and the jury is still out," he said, although also admitted that he understood why Disney opted to keep development of the next Toy Story game in-house: "We would have loved to keep the business, but when you see a company like Disney scaling up we weren't surprised they went internal with it."

It emerged late last year that THQ did not have the rights to the Pixar sequel, despite having developed games based on most of the studio's other movies.

According to the Wall Street Journal it was Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, Disney's head of animation, who chose his company's in-house development team to make the game instead of THQ's third-party resource.

Disney Interactive Studios chief Graham Hopper, however, countered Farrell's comments by saying the firm was prioritising quality of game rather than simply attempting to replicate blockbuster revenues in a new sector. He said: "Our ambition is not to be the largest videogame publisher, but to be a leading publisher of high-quality games, which we feel we've made great strides in achieving over the last few years."

And with Disney, Warner and Viacom's MTV all prepared to spend a minimum of $1.5bn between them on games development in the next two to three years, it's clear all are in for the long haul.

"We just started a marathon here," the piece quotes Mika Salmi, president of global digital media at Viacom's MTV Networks, as saying.