Disney Starts Gaming Unit

25 September 2001
Walt Disney Co. created a new business division last week aimed at positioning the company as a major player in interactive gaming.

Disney formed Buena Vista Game Entertainment Studio, a unit that is charged with "creating a new organization to leverage and combine new and emerging technologies, such as broadband and wireless, with video consoles, PCs, other technological innovations and online games to deliver integrated interactive entertainment for a new and exciting consumer experience," according to a statement by Disney Interactive.

The new venture, which is an arm of Disney Interactive, pegged Jan Smith as its president. Smith, a 14-year Disney veteran, will continue in her current role as president of Disney Interactive.

The announcement marks the first bold move for Disney in the interactive gaming arena since earlier this year when it announced the creation of a skill-based gaming site targeted at adults.

With creative minds already present in the Disney camp, it makes sense for the company to develop the games for the site in house. In a statement last week, Robert A. Iger, Disney's president and chief operating officer, said the new department will be doing more than just designing games, though.

"The Buena Vista Game Entertainment Studio will leverage Disney's content and brands in some very creative and innovative ways while providing interactive and challenging experiences for kids, parents and entire families," he said.

Although Disney will be a new player in a crowded gaming market, having a strong international brand could give the company leverage.

"Technological changes are rapidly sweeping over the game industry," Iger said. "This new business unit will position The Walt Disney Co. to take full advantage of this evolving landscape by consolidating our existing game activity and aggressively and creatively pursuing new opportunities and entertainment."

Disney Interactive failed to return numerous calls and messages from IGN seeking additional comments on the new company, but in a prepared statement Smith said the new branding efforts will be extensive.

"This is an exciting challenge to create new and dynamic entertainment that will complement and extend Disney's brands and media reach in both the online and offline worlds," she said.

Judging by her statements, it is safe to assume that Disney has big plans not only for its skill games site but also for other avenues of distribution.

"I look forward to extending traditional definitions of entertainment with interactive programming based on quality, mass market appeal, community building and synergistic integration with global brands,” Smith said.

Judging by the comments that the product will be geared toward consumers of all ages, it is probably a safe bet that the company will be designing games for free-play sites as well as video console-based games. Smith's comments also demonstrate the company's willingness to explore all possible varieties of interactive gaming. She said those devices will open a lot of different revenue streams.

"With games as a key component, interactive entertainment will have a profound and lasting impact on today's entertainment industry," she said.