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Disney Games VP: Indie devs offer "limitless potential" in partnerships

It isn't every day that an indie developer gets the chance to work on a game starring Mickey Mouse.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

October 26, 2022

2 Min Read
Screenshot from Dlala Games' Disney: Illusion Island.
Image taken from Nintendo of America's YouTube channel.

Speaking to GamesIndustry, Walt Disney Games' senior vice president Sean Shoptaw discussed the corporation's recent moves to bring indie game developers into its fold. Though its recent game output has mainly been from triple-A developers such as Insomniac Games (Marvel's Spider-Man) and Electronic Arts (Star Wars Jedi), smaller developers are now working on Disney games, including one based on Mickey Mouse.  

Shoptaw and Disney & Pixar Games VP Luigi Priore told IGN in 2021 about their desire to form partnerships with indie developers, in addition to triple-A studios. During Disney's annual D23 conference in September, a showcase for games featured announcements for Bithell Games' Tron: Identity, and Disney: Illusion Island from Dlala Studios. 

The inclusion of indie developers was noteworthy since up to that point, Disney's biggest games of the present and future have been from large companies. But Shoptaw stressed the importance of having more than just giant studios working on Disney's multitude of properties.

"if we just narrow our focus to the bigger shops, we'd be missing great opportunities to work with a lot of really talented creatives," he explained. "Both Dlala and Bithell are really great creative studios that have a lot of passion for our IP. [...] The size of studio just really doesn't matter if you’ve got that passion and creative excellence.”

Though both developers have had previous experience with licenses in the form of Bithell Games' John Wick: Hex, and Dlala's 2020 Battletoads revival (co-developed Rare), Shoptaw added that experience didn't matter when pitching to Disney games. 

"If people can portray that vision for an excellent experience that's led by a lot of passionate people that know the stories they want to tell, we'd be very open to that conversation," he continued. "We want to really empower and provide that white space for the best people in this industry to create and tell those original stories that is their vision.”

In the same way that experience with properties isn't a dealbreaker, Shoptaw confirmed that specific franchises or brands aren't locked off depending on whether a developer is triple-A or independent. 

Using Dlala as an example, he said that "the right creator is worthy regardless of the size of their studio. We'd certainly be open to future executions with any of our characters and worlds across the portfolio if it made sense, regardless of the size of partner.”

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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