E3 saw the games business out in force in California, home to Hollywood and Disneyland, to flaunt an industry producing content that can match the production values and market potential of some of the world’s biggest blockbuster movies.
Disney was there for opposite reasons. The group has a famous track record of selling cinema seats in their millions with each edition of its 90-minute chart-toppers.
But its games business, like that of Warner Bros and Paramount, has much work ahead to compete with the likes of dedicated publishers such as Activision and EA.
So Disney was at E3, and speaking to MCV, with stern intentions to promote its games business as something far more considered than just the wing of an entertainment empire.
It’s funny that people say we’re backed by Disney, because we are that company, we are Disney,” says Disney Interactive Studios’ country director for UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Matt Carroll.
The Walt Disney company puts Disney Interactive in a very important position, because it sees it as a vital contributor to the way it has a relationship with its brands.
It expects Disney to continue to innovate to high standards.”
If anything is a testament to Disney’s dedication to the games business, then surely it’s the firm’s upcoming Epic Mickey – a game which borderline vandalises the usually untouchable icon Mickey Mouse.
Such is the expectation and anticipation for Disney’s Wii title, that Nintendo chose to feature it in its high-profile pre-E3 press conference.
Carroll agrees that Epic Mickey represents a disruptive grassroots approach to the video games industry that multimedia companies too often fail to formulate. He also says Mickey is in safe hands with legendary game creator Warren Spector.
He understands the product, the magic and the value of Mickey Mouse,” Carroll adds.
For movie tie-ins, sometimes people’s expectations are wrong. We know that we can make excellent product, and not all movie tie-in games are average.”
We do a particularly good job of putting a lot of effort and expertise into them, and that will be our philosophy going forward.”
Head of marketing for UK and Ireland Keely Brenner says that the approach to Epic Mickey signifies Disney Interactive as a whole.
Looking at movie tie-ins – take Tron for example,” she says. We’re talking about a game that’s set before the actual Tron movie.
So people that see the movie and play the game after will know that there’s so much more breadth and story to it. It’s not just the simple movie tie-in that you usually see.”
But of course, Disney’s approach to games still resembles its approach to movies, particularly with how it aims to entertain the whole family.
The layered approach to Pixar movies – where both children and their parents can take something different yet equally compelling from a feature film – is not being ignored at Disney.
Carroll says: One of the benefits of having a company that has very strong values in its direction is that it helps us to design our products in a very family-friendly way. We’re trying to reach the entire household.
A game like Split/Second: Velocity is certified as a three-plus title and we hope young boys get in to play the game as much as teenagers do. All the games on Disney’s E3 booth are about sharing products among the family.”
Disney Interactive’s strategy of spreading its market doesn’t stop with age demographics. As Brenner explains, the group is embracing 3D with Tron and will also put its weight behind the new motion controls.
The company’s E3 booth – resplendent with a life-size Tron bike, game demos and video documentaries on Epic Mickey – remained popular throughout the show.
E3 is bigger and bolder than I’ve seen for a few years,” adds Carroll.
This is the best industry to be in. You only have to walk through the door and you’ve got a smile on your face.
You come here, look at the big screens and see what the publishers have got, and it’s just great. I see it continuing for the better.”
Brenner says that E3 has got its buzz back that was missing for a few years”, and the industry itself can only benefit from this.
It gives you the chance to party and network with your partners, which is very important. People think the industry meets up all the time but it’s only at events like this where we have the chance to network and have meetings.”
What kind of discussions Disney Interactive took part in behind closed doors remains a mystery, for now.
But with the company’s renewed dedication to games and its mature approach to the business, Disney will no doubt be armed with more titles and announcements when the games industry returns to its home turf Hollywood next year.