Despite EA’s best efforts to lose the license to make Star Wars games, Disney plans to stick with the partnership for the interim. In a recent earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger said it’s a “good relationship,” and that the company will “stay on that side of the business.”
“We’ve had good relationships with some of those we’re licensing to, notably EA, and the relationship on the Star Wars properties, and we’re probably going to continue to stay on that side of the business and put our capital elsewhere,” Iger said.
Disney is apparently fine with leaving video games made from its properties in other hands. During the earnings call, Iger was asked about the company’s future plans regarding video games. In his reply, Iger said that Disney is “obviously mindful of the size of that business.” He also admitted that the company historically produced mixed results on its own.
“Over the years we’ve tried our hand in self-publishing. We’ve bought companies, we’ve sold companies, we’ve bought developers, we’ve closed developers,” Iger said. “We’ve found over the years that we haven’t been particularly good at the self-publishing side, but we’ve been great at the licensing side which obviously doesn’t require that much allocation of capital.”
Disney once dabbled with publishing its own games. Some may remember Disney Interactive Studios. What started as Walt Disney Computer Software in 1988, DIS became the company’s video game publishing arm. For 31 years the company pushed out a lot of games. Some of the top earners include Epic Mickey and Kingdom Hearts (co-published with Square Enix). Disney Interactive Studios became defunct in 2016. This occurred not long after the parent company signed a 10-year deal with EA for exclusive developer rights of the Star Wars franchise in 2013.
Since then, EA has developed two games in the Star Wars franchise. Battlefront and Battlefront II performed well, but the latter of which quickly became a source of controversy. The issue of loot boxes and gambling came to a fervor after the launch of Battlefront II.
It was easy to see why. A Star Wars website discovered that you’d have to spend $2,000 USD, or play more than 4,500 hours, to unlock everything in the game. One player figured it would take more than 40 hours of play to unlock playable heroes. Imagine spending $60 USD on Battlefront II and realizing it would take over 40 hours to play as Darth Vader unless you paid more money. It’s enough to get anyone pissed.
EA since made some sweeping changes to the Battlefront II loot system, but not before earning some strife. Loot boxes were changed, and hero prices were dropped. But it was too little too late for some players. As reported by GameSpot (via The Wall Street Journal), Even Disney seemed chuffed about the controversy.
Regardless, Disney is still on board with the EA partnership, for better or worse.