Disney SVP admits consoles were "afterthought"

By Mike Williams

In a chat at the¬†GamesBeat 2012¬†conference, Disney senior vice president of social games John Spinale admitted that the company’s previous console-borne efforts were “more of an afterthought.” In the past it looked like Disney was taking a serious stab at making games for home consoles, but then it changed directions, cutting off development houses like Black Rock Studio and Propaganda Games.

“Historically, at Disney, we probably haven’t done the absolute best job of being a games company. We’ve started off as a film company, then television, parks, and continuing to broaden out the portfolio of things that we did. But I think games, until pretty recently, was more of an afterthought,” said Spinale.

“It was viewed as a marketing extension of what we did. So, ‘Hey, here’s a movie, how do we make the game?’ That worked OK for the company, but I think when you look at the growth in the entire games business, it’s pretty obvious this is a big piece of the media pie that’s just going in the right direction. Disney made a decision a couple of years ago to treat games as a first-class citizen. It really is quality first, consumer experience, what do people want? And then we’ll worry about how the details play out later.”

Spinale joined Disney six months ago to handle its social games. He notes that Disney has been very aggressive in its acquisitions to remain successful in the space.

“Disney, when they said, ‘Let’s get serious about games,’ they actually acquired the vast majority of the development resources we have. Club Penguin came in through acquisition, Playdom came in through acquisition. We bought a company called Wideload, which is Alex Seropian’s thing after he did Halo, which was also working on console games for a time. Tap Tap, Bart Decrem’s mobile group, came in through acquisition,” he explained.

“Whenever Disney is really serious about something, we’re a very acquisitive company. We can get very big, we brought in all these companies and it’s great. But before that, Playdom itself was a very avid acquirer of companies. I think we merged eleven or twelve companies together over the course of the first two years of our existence. Every one of those was a startup, between five and 50 people.”

“We’re still getting the benefits of shared technology and infrastructure, but each one still has its own little business culture, and we really like that. It really doesn’t have any of the things you’d expect from a big company in terms of structured process dragging things down,” Spinale said.

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