Disney said it is closing Junction Point Studios, the video-game developer it acquired six years ago that was behind the creation of the much-hyped Disney Epic Mickey.
Epic Mickey was released amid fanfare in late 2010 and marked the first appearance since 1943 of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as a major Disney character. In the game, Mickey Mouse must use a magic paintbrush to fix a damaged cartoon world. The game was part of an effort to introduce the iconic animated mouse to a new generation, but it also antagonized some purists who complained of a darker, more flawed character than they were accustomed to.
Junction Point is run by founder Warren Spector, a well regarded developer of games who has been in the business since the early 1980s. Spector addressed the closing of the studio on his Facebook page.
“I said to myself as Junction Point embarked on the Epic Mickey journey that, worst case, we'd be 'a footnote in Disney history.' Looking back on it, I think we did far better than that,” he wrote. “With Mickey Mouse as our hero, we introduced a mainstream audience to some cool 'core game' concepts ... and, most especially, we restored Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to a place of prominence.”
“Whatever you think of me,” he continued,“or Junction Point, or Disney or the Disney Epic Mickey games – yes, I know we polarized people! – I'll always look back on the last eight years with nothing but pride.”
Epic Mickey started out strong when first released, scoring several positive reviews and selling 1.3 million copies in its first month. A sequel to the game, while praised for improvements, was nevertheless considered a disappointment from a sales point of view.
Disney, which has been under pressure to turn a profit at its interactive division, acknowledged the closure of Junction Point, though a spokesman didn’t say how many jobs were in jeopardy. He said the Epic Mickey franchise might live on, though there were no plans for sequels to the game.
“It was with much sadness that we informed our teams today of changes to our games organization, which include the closure of Junction Point Studios,” a spokesman said. “These changes are part of our ongoing effort to address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities. We’re extremely grateful to Warren Spector and the Junction Point team for their creative contributions to Disney with Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey 2."