View Full Version : Disney, Marvel, and a decade of missed opportunity

September 6th, 2019, 20:16
Whenever I hear about a giant from the neighboring tech or media industries getting into video games, I think back to this May 2016 New York Times interview (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/23/business/wenner-media-to-launch-glixel-website-as-lifeline-for-gamers.html) with Gus Wenner of Rolling Stone outfit Wenner Media. He was being interviewed about the publisher's new video game website, Glixel, and he laid out the company's rationale for getting into games.
"Gaming just felt like an area where there was a great audience opportunity, a great revenue opportunity and a major void that we could fill with capabilities we had in-house," Wenner said.
The sentiment makes sense, and some version of it is often brought up in coverage of big-name outsiders throwing their weight around in games. But the reason I keep coming back to this particular interview is Wenner's insistence that Glixel would be a future staple of the company and not a "frivolous one-off that might not exist in two years."
As you may remember (or might have guessed, if you're familiar with why bold declarations usually get revisited in this column), Glixel didn't survive for two years. We can argue about its status as a "frivolous one-off," but Wenner Media laid off the entire staff (https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2017-07-03-glixels-san-francisco-office-closed-team-laid-off) and shut down its San Francisco headquarters after one year. It then brought in Brian Crecente as a lone editor to oversee Glixel as a freelance-driven publication. However, Penske Media acquired a 51% stake in Wenner Media late in 2017 and retired the Glixel brand in April of 2018 (https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-04-06-brian-crecente-joins-variety), a month and change shy of its two-year anniversary.
I mention this now because two other stories from September of 2009 reminded me of big-name companies giving up on their gaming hopes. The first of those stories was Universal Pictures pulling the plug on its gaming ambitions (https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/universal-scales-back-games-ambitions-following-wanted-flop) after the commercial failure of Wanted: Weapons of Fate. The other was Disney acquiring Marvel (https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/disney-to-acquire-marvel-for-USD4-billion), which was technically announced August 31, but I didn't really go into this last month and a considerable amount of the coverage ran in September.
It should go without saying that the Disney-Marvel deal has had a sizable impact on the film industry. And while it hasn't exactly reshaped the world of gaming, it didn't take a particularly insightful observer to see the strategic potential of a company with growing aspirations for gaming paired with a stable of world-famous licenses that lent themselves to gaming.