NBCUniversal Shutters Game Publishing Division

Courtesy of Funko

Universal Games and Digital Platforms, formed in 2017, will no longer publish mobile titles as part of a restructuring plan at the company, which also saw layoffs in its Lifestyle Networks group on Thursday.

NBCUniversal is restructuring its Universal Games and Digital Platforms division, which published mobile games based on various IP owned by the company. 

"Given the realities of the increasingly competitive nature of the mobile games landscape, Universal Brand Development (UBD) is shifting its investment and approach in games to opportunities that don’t require mobile self-publishing," an NBCUniversal spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter. "This will allow UBD to deepen their licensing and partnership opportunities across all gaming platforms. As a result of this shift, the team has undergone a restructuring to be better positioned for long-term success."

Launched in 2017, Universal Games and Digital Platforms was led by executive vp Chris Heatherly. He will continue in his role at UBD until the end of the year, in a transitional capacity. Heatherly joined the company in 2016 to expand NBCUniversal's games business and oversee mobile publishing efforts. Some members of the team will remain on to continue working on the company's licensed games portfolio.

The news of the division's closure comes alongside announcements that NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment's Lifestyle Networks group laid off five percent of its staff on Thursday morning. 

"Based on our recent organizational realignment, we’re working with our development partners on alternative publishing paths for some of the games in our mobile portfolio. Specific details for each title will be announced at a later date," says NBCUniversal's spokesperson. 

Recent titles licensed by Universal Games and Digital Platforms include games based on the company's Minions, Jurassic World and How to Train Your Dragon franchises. Self-published games, developed by external studios, released by Universal Games and Digital Platforms include Fast & Furious: Takedown, Jaws.io, Series: Your Story Universe, Voltron: Cubes of Olkarion and Turok: Escape From Lost Valley.

Last week, it was revealed that Disney is attempting to sell FoxNext, the video game development unit founded by Fox in 2017 which Disney acquired as part of its acquisition of 20th Century Fox earlier this year. 

Meanwhile, in August, Warner Bros. expanded its Warner Bros. Interactive division with the launch of a new San Diego-based studio focused on developing mobile games. J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot also took a major step into the gaming space last year with the formation of Bad Robot Games, in partnership with Chinese conglomerate Tencent and with Warner Bros. Interactive as a minority investor. 

Tech giants such as Apple, which launched its Apple Arcade subscription service on Thursday, and Google, which will debut its Stadia streaming service next month, have also shown increased interest in the gaming space this year. 

Sept. 19, 12:21 p.m. Updated with information that Universal Games and Digital Platforms did not internally develop games.