Disney CEO Bob Iger gave air time in today’s earnings call to the partnership where Disney will invest $1.5 billion in Epic Games to build a new Disney universe that resembles a metaverse.
The deal is a huge one that could boost the fortunes of Epic Games’ vision to build an open and connected metaverse — something Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been talking about for nearly a decade.
“It’s not just our parks where we’re creating new opportunities for consumers to engage with the characters and franchises they love,” Iger said in the analyst call. In our new relationship with Epic Games, we’re creating a transformational games and entertainment universe that integrates Disney’s world-class storytelling into Epic’s cultural phenomenon Fortnite, enabling consumers to play, watch, create, and shop for both digital and physical goods. This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of video games, and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion. The new immersive universe will unleash their own creativity and experience the Disney stories that they love in groundbreaking new ways.”
Iger added, “Younger audiences in particular are huge consumers of video games. In fact, among millennials, Gen Z and Gen Z is a significant amount of time spent on screen-based platforms, playing video games. This new universe from Disney and Epic provides us with a tremendous opportunity to not only meet more consumers where they are and to allow more audiences to cultivate a bond with Disney’s iconic brands and franchises, including Marvel, Star Wars, and much more.”
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As an aside, he noted that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, made by Sony’s Insomniac Games, added to games revenue during the quarter. He noted that sometimes managing creativity is best done with great partnerships.
Analyst question on video game strategy
One analyst asked about the different iterations of video game strategy that Disney has seen over his tenure and why this new round with Epic Games is the right move.
“You’re right, we’ve tried our hand at video games a number of different directions,” Iger said. “And actually, the one that ended up being the most successful for us was the license. And in fact, we’ve licensed nine billion-dollar franchises, including the Spider-Man franchise, which is the most successful video game.”
He added, “Last year. After I came back, I sat down with Josh D’Amaro, who runs our [Disney Experiences]. And his executive who actually manages games Sean Shoptaw. The first thing they showed me were demographic trends. And when I saw Gen Z and Gen Alpha, and even Millennials — and I saw the amount of time they were spending in terms of their total media screen time on video games, it was stunning to me. Equal to what they spend on TV and movies. And the conclusion I reached was we have to be there.”
Iger said that Disney has to be there as soon as it possibly can in a very compelling way.
“We knew through our relationship with Fortnite that there was already success, with some of our characters and franchises were expressed and showed up in Fortnite,” he said.
He said he met Tim Sweeney in 2017 through the Disney Accelerator program. They started a discussion about creating a “gigantic Disney World” with Fortnite completely interconnected.
The world would be one where “people could create their own games, could watch — you could imagine the creation of short form videos — or maybe we may even use the platform to actually distribute some of our content,” Iger said.
He said that people that could interact with one another and ultimately some form of shopping, as well and other forms of creation.
“Obviously, there’ll be some there the opportunities to buy digital goods for native at some point — physical goods,” he siad. “And I just think that given the demographic trends, and given the success of Fortnite — and by the way, they are experiencing a really a great year of both customer satisfaction and growth as they return to some of their roots.”
Iger said Disney can take our IP from our movies and our television and have them expressed in our parks. And he said this is also a great way to do it in games.
“It’s a way to have skin in the game with them with the investment of $1.5 billion to strengthen a partnership. Because we have skin in the game, but also build a world where we’re actually not creating too much risk for the company,” he said. “So as we said this is the best of all worlds in many respects, from a business venture perspective, and certainly great for consumers who love to interact with our characters already in video game format.”
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