Disney shuts down metaverse division as part of larger company layoffs

Disney's cut its 50-person metaverse team in the first round of its 7,000 layoffs.

Disney's laying off 7,000 of its staff, and that means its entire metaverse division is cut. 

Originally reported by the Wall Street Journal and Variety, the near 50-member cuts are part of the first round of layoffs. Bob Iger, who returned as the company's CEO in November 2022, previously announced the layoffs as part of an effort to eliminate $5.5 billion in costs the company had accrued. 

Sources speaking to the Journal claim the team's goal was "finding ways to tell interactive stories in new technological formats using Disney’s extensive library of intellectual property." Disney never got those plans off the ground, but the Journal believes it planned to use the metaverse for theme parks and fantasy sports.

Mike White, who headed up the metaverse division when it started in 2022, will remain at the company in a currently undisclosed role.

Disney has gotten the metaverse out of its system, for now

The metaverse has largely suffered from slow growth over the past year. 

Tech companies such as Meta haven't been able to make it a promising new avenue for business, and game developers that have attempted to push metaverse products (such as NFTs) have been met with heavy criticism. And those who've stuck with it try to distance their products from that stigma of that branding.

Among the game industry, those who think there's any chance at the metaverse succeeding put their faith in Fortnite. Of the developers surveyed for 2023's GDC State of the Industry report, 14 percent think Epic Games is most likely to pull it off.

As far as Disney is concerned, cutting the metaverse team doesn't mean it's against the technology entirely. Last year, Iger joined the board of Genies Inc., a startup focused on users creating online avatars for the metaverse.

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