HomeTechDisney interview: Big games coming with Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney interview: Big games coming with Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean

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Disney had a massive week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with the announcement of Ubisoft’s new open-world game, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. The title has cinematic graphics that replicate the imagery of the film and the environments of the stunning moon of Pandora.



Microsoft’s Rare studio also announced that characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, like Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones, will be integrated into Sea of Thieves. Both are examples of Disney’s return to triple-A games right after alterations to its approach for games more than the years.



Disney had triple-A games in the previous when it had its personal game studios. But it closed down or sold off the studios, and more not too long ago it has been licensing its properties to outdoors businesses, mainly mobile game publishers such as Glu and Jam City. And now it is clear that Disney has been licensing its properties out for triple-A games as nicely.

I talked with Sean Shoptaw, senior vice president of Walt Disney Games, and Luigi Priore, vice president of Disney and Pixar Games, about Disney’s presence at E3 and the most recent on its approach for games.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Image Credit: Disney

GamesBeat: What’s new for Disney Games?

Sean Shoptaw: I guess that is a fairly loaded query. There’s a lot going on. It’s been a excellent week at E3 with some of the announcements you have seen. The business enterprise is performing nicely. We’re super excited about the solutions we’ve announced, and a lot of the solutions we have in the industry currently as nicely. We’re extremely excited about the status of games at Disney.

GamesBeat: What was announced altogether this week?

Shoptaw: The Avatar title and the Sea of Thieves integration had been the two massive ones so far.

GamesBeat: How extended has Avatar been in the producing now?

Priore: That predates us, certainly, mainly because Disney didn’t obtain the 20th Century Fox properties till a couple of years ago. That began nicely just before the acquisition. The excellent factor moving forward is we’ve been fortunate adequate to be in a position to work with Ubisoft and the group at Massive with Lightstorm, James Cameron’s production corporation, and Jon Landau, who worked on Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. They announced Massive was working on it a though ago, but this is the name announcement and the initial glimpse of what that game is going to be. We’ve gotten extremely fantastic responses.

GamesBeat: The animation practically feels like it is the film.

Shoptaw: Yeah, right after the trailer, people today are acquiring out that it is extremely cinematic. The top quality is really higher. We’re super excited about that title.

GamesBeat: How does that relate to the film releases, the next Avatar motion pictures? Are they slated for distinct dates but?

Priore: Yeah, the next one is vacation 2022. Sean can get into our common approach, but on licensing games like this these days — there was a time 15 or 20 years ago exactly where playing the film was some thing. You purchased the game and played the film. Things like the classic Aladdin game on Sega Genesis. You played the film. That was well-liked at the time, but gamers anticipate more now. They want to interact with their preferred characters and worlds, but they want to play new stories and do new points with these characters and worlds.

On Avatar it is the very same factor. What James Cameron and Jon Landau produced is an awesome science fiction world. Pandora is great. They have excellent heroes. It’s a excellent playground to play in. This is a brand new story with new characters. It’s going to turn out to be portion of the canon. The complete concept is to have it be portion of the storyline of that giant franchise on Pandora, but it is not a “play the movie” game. It’s an all new open world, new characters. That’s why it is referred to as Frontiers of Pandora. It requires location on one more frontier, one more location of the moon of Pandora.

Image Credit: Disney

GamesBeat: How significantly will we recognize it? Is it a replication of the film world, or is it more Ubisoft’s imagining of a new portion of the world?

Priore: No, we’re working straight with the filmmakers. Jon Landau is involved practically just about every day on this. This is the very same world. It’s just that you are going to meet new characters, new clans of Na’vi, and your function is going to be various. I do not want to go also significantly into it mainly because we didn’t announce every thing but. But it is a complete new story with new characters on the very same planet, in the very same canon. Jedi: Fallen Order was a new story about a new Jedi in the Star Wars canon. It’s the very same concept right here.

GamesBeat: On your level, how are you involved, compared to Ubisoft’s duty?

Priore: Massive is the developer. They’re one of the most effective in class at open world games. Division, Division II, awesome games. They’re working with the FoxNext group and Lightstorm, working straight with the filmmakers. Where we come in is we’ve brought our knowledge in working on IP, working on games. We’ve talked about this a bit. We have a collection of producers, game designers, artists, writers that work collectively with our partners to get the most effective out of what they want to do.

Although we just joined this game production not too long ago, due to the fact we acquired the 20th Century properties, we’re working straight with Massive and Lightstorm to assistance them make the most effective game doable. It’s our job to make sure that Massive has every thing they need to have and that the brand is as genuine as doable working with Lightstorm.

GamesBeat: It nevertheless feels like there are so lots of possibilities for Disney in games. How do you strategy which ones to take on, how lots of of them to do on what platforms?

Shoptaw: There’s no shortage of inbound interest to work with all of our franchises, fortunately. That’s some thing we’re grateful for. We attempt to take the strategy that — we need to have to align our partnerships about people’s passions for IP. When we sit down and meet with a developer or publisher about an concept, a lot of that is driven by their passion to go make a particular game with a particular IP. Ideally we’re matching that up with a most effective-in-class companion. To the point about Massive, about EA, about the partnerships you see now and will see in future, it is about matching that passion with most effective-in-class partners to go make what we hope are the most effective games we’ve made for what ever genre or IP it may well be.

That, to us, is the recipe. It’s about working with higher-top quality partners that have passion for Disney IP, what ever it may possibly be. It gets to be a significantly much easier conversation when you are in that world, exactly where you see that passion. They have a track record of establishing higher-top quality solutions. Then it is about figuring out precisely what the execution is going to be, working closely with Luigi and our other teams internally to map to what in the end is the final item. But that genuinely is, at the top rated, our focus, to match people’s passions and the highest top quality of companion we can obtain to go make a particular game.

GamesBeat: There’s a lot more coming than what we’ve seen right here at E3, I’m sure.

Shoptaw: As I stated yesterday, our slate has never ever been improved. We’ve never ever been more excited about the slate we have. Some of that is been announced and some hasn’t. But we really feel like we’ve been fortunate to do some thrilling partnerships with partners that have a higher bar on top quality and fortunately have a passion for our IP. We look at our pipeline of item and it is never ever been healthier. The top quality bar has never ever been larger.

GamesBeat: Star Wars: Hunters is one more one of these coming.

Priore: Very excited about Hunters. Both mobile and Switch, which is extremely thrilling for us. We’ve wanted to get more content on the Switch. We’re excited about what that game represents inside the Star Wars universe. We believe it is a exceptional take, each creatively and from a genre point of view. It’s a extremely differentiated knowledge, one we haven’t seen so far in Star Wars.

Image Credit: Disney

GamesBeat: Zynga is an intriguing option there. They haven’t completed a console game just before. When I was speaking to them about their Harry Potter game, even though, I was fairly stunned by how significantly work went into that. Several years, the largest group they ever had. How significantly they place into all the animation and every thing else that keeps players immersed in that universe was extremely intriguing. It wasn’t as significantly of a surprise to see them do a Star Wars game.

Priore: They came to us with a fantastic concept, with a group that we had a lot of respect for. They have a lot of passion for Star Wars. It made a lot of sense to us as we sat down and mapped out what a game could look like right here. You’ll see that passion and top quality in the final item. As I stated, I believe it is a exceptional take on Star Wars, and knock on wood, our fans will agree. We’re fairly bullish on that game, excited for the world to see it.

GamesBeat: Is there something else announced in Star Wars?

Shoptaw: We announced the Massive title as nicely not also extended ago. We’ll do an open world Star Wars game with Massive. Similar to Zynga, we really feel like it fits a need to have inside the Star Wars universe that hasn’t been fulfilled, and we felt Massive was a great companion to execute on it. We’re substantial fans of David [Polfeldt] and the group. We aligned immediately on a vision and an knowledge for Star Wars that, once again, fans and gamers will flock to, hopefully. We really feel fantastic about the group producing it, and we believe the concept behind it is excellent.

GamesBeat: I take it that it is just not the time to show a glimpse of that?

Shoptaw: We’re nevertheless a tiny strategies off, but at the suitable time I believe people today will see why we’re so excited about it. We had Avatar to show this time. We didn’t want to show also significantly at when. With Star Wars, we’ve seen such a excellent response to Star Wars not too long ago. Jedi: Fallen Order continues to carry out. We just hit the 20 million user milestone not too long ago. That title was one more excellent instance of telling a really original story inside that universe, some thing that hadn’t been told just before. Allowing people today to go be a Jedi and play a enjoyable game like that has confirmed to work nicely and continues to resonate.

We’re not searching to flood the industry and place one game on top rated of one more. We want to be disciplined and focused on the most effective experiences. It’s not about producing as lots of games as we can possibly make. It’s about producing the suitable games with the suitable partners. When we do that, we see that we’re in a position to have a fantastic quantity of achievement. We really feel fortunate about that. We’ll continue to do points that we believe fans and gamers will be excited about with the suitable partners in the suitable genres on the suitable platforms. If we can hold that discipline I believe we’ll continue to raise the bar on top quality and continue to provide solutions that will meet the moment, meet the level of top quality that we want.

GamesBeat: What’s the approach about platforms, particularly mobile?

Image Credit: Disney

Shoptaw: Mobile is a substantial industry globally. We’re usually going to have more mobile solutions than we have console solutions, just by the nature of the platform. It’s fairly basic. We want to be exactly where it tends to make sense for our IP to be, across genres, across markets. That may well imply neighborhood solutions like Twisted Wonderland in Japan, which is a extremely exceptional, particular take on Disney in a industry that is hugely passionate about Disney especially. That execution is a excellent instance of getting extremely locally focused, an execution we know is going to resonate with a particular industry. We definitely have regional appears as nicely, solutions that make sense in particular components of the world. Asia is a fantastic instance. And then we have a fair quantity of solutions that are international.

We look at it by way of a neighborhood, regional, and international lens. We want to make sure we match franchises and IP with markets in genres that resonate most powerfully. Twisted Wonderland is an unbelievable instance of a neighborhood execution. A lot of our titles, certainly, are international, and they’ve been enormous successes across markets. We’ll continue to look at massive international possibilities like Galaxy of Heroes with EA. Obviously the Marvel portfolio has had a lot of unbelievable achievement across mobile.

We’re not one size fits all. We’ll focus on the suitable execution in the suitable industry with the suitable companion and the suitable genre. We do not want to flood the industry, once again, with a bunch of duplicative titles, or just place our brand on any title that we get some interest in. We’re going to be disciplined, and we’re going to make sure we apply that sort of strategic believed to just about every game we do, regardless of industry. That strategy more than the last handful of years for us has shown that it functions nicely, and we’ll continue to have that view of the world. It wants to make sense. It wants to be genuinely higher top quality.

Even if we believe we’re missing some thing, if there’s an chance for a genre or a particular IP is underserved, we’re not going to rush and just do a game mainly because we believe we need to have to. We will wait and make the suitable game with the suitable companion. That’s as significant as receiving any games out there. That’s some thing we’re focused on as significantly as we are receiving solutions to industry and satisfying the demand that we thankfully have for our IP. We’ll continue to be disciplined.

GamesBeat: Did the pandemic transform your pondering in any strategies?

Shoptaw: No. Fortunately the game business general, and definitely our business enterprise inside Disney, had been performing extremely nicely prior to COVID. People’s perception was that video games benefited a lot from people today staying home, working from home. There’s definitely some truth to that. But video games have been developing swiftly as an business prior to COVID. It would have continued to develop swiftly if we never ever had COVID. So it hasn’t changed any strategic pondering for us. Fortunately our solutions and releases, practically nothing was impacted also drastically by COVID. Again, strategically it hasn’t changed our view of the world.

Image Credit: Disney

GamesBeat: It appears like the video game chance is a lot more clear than it used to be in the wake of the pandemic. I’ve been writing all these stories about how significantly more revenue is coming into the game business. I believe it is $49 billion in the initial 5 months of this year in terms of investments and acquisitions and public offerings. That compares to $33 billion for all of last year. At the very same time I know the film business is contracting. Does it make some sense to argue the case for games as a larger slice of the pie going forward, a larger chance? Is it time to double down on video games?

Shoptaw: We look at games as that pillar, regardless of what the model is. For us we really feel like playing in the space exactly where we’re playing offers us the highest top quality solutions that we can scale across the world. When you look at internal development, certainly that comes with a considerable quantity of investment and volume to go hit the aspirations that we have in this space. Again, that is to work and provide the most effective solutions across the world — console, mobile, Computer.

Generally there’s no shortage of investment nevertheless taking place on the linear side. To your point about film, streaming has taken a considerable bite out of that standard film apple. But the investment in linear content is nevertheless really material. I do not believe that is been diminished in any way. From a games point of view, once again, our focus has been, and will continue to be, on top quality, on getting in a position to scale this business enterprise and meet the demand that exists in video games.

We really feel like suitable now, that approach is to go license and work with the most effective partners in the world to provide on that demand. We’ll continue to do that as extended as we can meet that bar of top quality, of volume, and producing sure that our attain is exactly where we need to have it to be. Again, we’re fortunate to have the IP that we do. We owe it to shoppers, fans, and gamers to make sure we’re delivering at that level. That will continue to be our focus.

We’re excited about exactly where this business enterprise is and exactly where it is going. We believe it is a pillar, regardless of model. As extended as we’re delivering solutions like we are, games will continue to be a foundational portion of the general entertainment medium. Certainly from a Disney point of view we do that extremely thoughtfully. We’ve offered a lot of consideration and focus to it internally. You’re seeing these final results in solutions today, and you will continue to see them in the future.

GamesBeat: Can you inform me a tiny about the Sea of Thieves integration?

Priore: We’re excited. The group at Rare — this goes back to what we had been saying about most effective-in-class partners. They’ve made the most effective pirate game ever with Sea of Thieves. We’re excited to have A Pirate’s Life, some thing genuine to Pirates of the Caribbean that is also genuine to Sea of Thieves. It lines up with what Sean was saying about performing it the suitable way, producing it genuine to what we do at Disney. Just as we stated about Avatar or Star Wars, we want to do that all the time, and we really feel like we’re obtaining achievement with that.

I’ve been right here a extended time. I’ve been at Disney in games for 25 years. I’ve been on the roller coaster, and I’ve never ever been more excited about the possibilities we have lined up. You’re seeing some of them, no matter if it is Massive and Ubisoft with Avatar or Rare and Microsoft with Sea of Thieves and Pirates of the Caribbean. We’re excited about what’s coming next.

GamesBeat: Call of Duty has an intriguing funnel these days, exactly where they begin with Call of Duty Mobile. They have 500 million people today that way. They have Warzone, a totally free-to-play console and Computer game, one hundred million players. That feeds into Cold War, a $60 packaged game that sold 40% improved than the preceding game in the series. It appears like no accident. You widen that funnel and sooner or later you widen the industry for the franchise’s premium games. It appears like only the largest businesses can do that. I do not know if Disney has looked at that approach as nicely, exactly where there’s a goal to each and every game in that funnel.

Shoptaw: People’s strategic view of a game and that game’s goal are going to differ drastically. If you are establishing a game like Call of Duty, that is a considerable franchise and an extremely productive one. There’s a lot of strategies you can continue to funnel customers and develop that pie across platforms.

From a Disney point of view it is certainly various. We’re working with partners to generate experiences. Our approach is, once again, to bring as higher a top quality of item as we can to industry. It’s not about platform-creating. We’re not performing this vertically, creating out platforms and performing points that may well be the approach of a massive game developer.

For us, we’re definitely open to playing in a space that creates these multiplatform experiences that drive audiences in meaningful strategies across solutions. It’s some thing we’d be delighted to engage on if that type of execution made sense for a franchise of ours. But once again, our focus is frequently tied to working with partners that can go elevate the IP, that can bring it to shoppers in new, exceptional, revolutionary strategies. If that outcome takes place, to your initial query, that is excellent. But it is not core to our approach mainly because we’re not a developer. We do not believe about it by way of that lens. If they can leverage our IP in a equivalent way to Call of Duty, sure, we’re delighted to engage on that conversation.

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