Tuesday's announcement is actually a familiar retreat for Disney. In 2011, the company laid off a significant portion of its game development team, saying it was walking away from console games to focus on mobile titles. That move, like this one, came on the heels of Disney proclaiming victory. In that case, "Epic Mickey" had just been declared one of the fastest-selling games in the company's history.
While Disney has had copious success in other entertainment fields, it has never been able to crack the gaming world. It has plenty of intellectual properties that are ripe for games (as EA has shown with "Star Wars Battlefront"). It has had some of the industry's top developers, including gaming legend Warren Spector, on staff. Yet it has never broken through as a top-of-field name in games.
"I think they've struggled to really find harmony and sales in video games," said Hickey. "Creating console games is fairly difficult and there's a level of expertise that has taken other publishers (like EA, Activision and Take-Two) multiple cycles to build."
People who have worked at the company also point privately to Disney's internal politics as an issue that held the video game business back. Stakeholders in various divisions have often been unwilling to trust game developers with the properties or characters and, in turn, have micromanaged the game-making process or insisted on last-minute changes, unaware of the time those demands required. That, in turn stretched development times (raising costs) and often resulted in a less-than-optimal title.
A Disney representative disputed those claims, pointing to the successful collaboration between the developers of "Disney Infinity" and the Walt Disney World, Marvel and Lucasfilm divisions as an example.