Bob Iger: Disney Isn't "Particularly Good" at Self-Publishing Games

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Disney CEO Bob Iger

The CEO applauded his company's relationship with game developers EA and is happy to continue letting outside studios develop their properties into games.

Disney CEO Bob Iger made a rare concession on Tuesday's quarterly earnings call when it comes to his company's forays in the video game industry.

"We’re obviously mindful of the size of that business but over the years we’ve tried our hand at self-publishing … and we’ve found that we haven’t been particularly good at the self-publishing side," the exec said on the call.

While Disney may have had limited success publishing games on their own, Iger said that the company has been "great" on the licensing side. "We’ve just decided that the best place for us to be in that space is licensing and not publishing. We have good relationships with some of those that we’re licensing to, notably EA," he said.

In May 2013, EA announced an exclusive publishing deal with Disney for future Star Wars games through 2023. In that time, however, only two major titles have been released, 2015's Star Wars Battlefront and 2017's Star Wars Battlefront II. While the first game met sales expectations, the second was a commercial failure and sparked significant fan backlash for its inclusion of "loot boxes," optional purchasable in-game upgrades that fans said made the game incredibly difficult to succeed in without buying them. 

During its own earnings call on Tuesday, EA promised the release of its latest upcoming Star Wars game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, this fall. Fallen Order, which is being worked on by Titanfall studio Respawn Entertainment, has been in development for nearly three years.

The latest console Disney game to hit markets was Kingdom Hearts 3, developed and published by Japanese game makers Square Enix, which mashes up classic Disney and Pixar characters with role-playing characters and storylines. That game is already a massive commercial success, shipping over 5 million units since its release on Jan. 25, and delivering another hit for the long-running franchise with its first numbered release in nearly 15 years.

Disney also has a number of partnerships in the mobile gaming world. In November, the company signed a multiyear deal with Jam City and earlier in 2018 signed a pact with mobile gaming developer Zynga for an upcoming free-to-play Star Wars mobile game.  

Iger insisted that Disney would continue to stay on the licensing side of the video game industry for the foreseeable future, stating that they would put their capital "elsewhere."