Disney wants indie developers to know that its door is always open to good game ideas no matter the size of your studio. Although Disney has made games with the likes of gaming giants such as EA, PlayStation, and Square Enix, in recent years it’s widened its worldview on video games to include licensing deals with smaller studios such as Dlalla Studio and Bithell Games.
"There's a lot of really talented indies, and if we just narrow our focus to the bigger shops, we'd be missing great opportunities to work with a lot of really talented creatives," said Disney Games VP Sean Shoptaw in an interview with Games Industry.biz. "For us, the passion that folks have, regardless of the size of their studio, is the most important element to making a great product. Both Dlala and Bithell are really great creative studios that have a lot of passion for our IP and we want to empower studios just like them to go tell great stories with, in this case, Tron and traditional Disney with Mickey and friends. The size of studio just really doesn't matter if you’ve got that passion and creative excellence."
In the days of yore, Disney would approach large game studios and say "we want a game that does X, Y, or Z," but that strategy often resulted in sub-par games without a soul. Shoptaw said the new plan is to start with a creative idea that doesn't need to come from within Disney.
Disney Illusion Island, for example, came from an idea Dlalla had back in 2016. That canceled game eventually morphed into a hand-drawn platformer with up to four players taking control of beloved Disney characters, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. Bithell Games previously made John Wick Hex, an action strategy game starring the titular former assassin and tasking the player with planning out set-piece action scenes.
None of Disney's numerous intellectual properties are off limits, as Dlalla demonstrates. The important pieces to Shoptaw are "passion" and "expertise in-house to really execute and bring a title to life, with the scale and quality that we want." If you’ve got those two key ingredients, you can grab Mickey’s ear.
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