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It's official: Disney shuts down Epic Mickey studio Junction Point

Austin took another big hit on Tuesday when the Disney-owned developer headed by former Junction Point and Ion Studio designer Warren Spector was shut down as part of Disney's divorce from console publishing.

Frank Cifaldi, Contributor

January 29, 2013

3 Min Read

Disney has shut down Austin-based development studio Junction Point, the company confirmed Tuesday. Junction Point was the lead developer behind both Disney Epic Mickey for the Nintendo Wii and the multiplatform sequel Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. While the former sold 1.3 million units in its November and December 2010 debut months, the latter -- according to a source speaking to the L.A. Times -- sold just 270,000 copies across four SKUs in a comparable timeframe. Sources familiar with the situation have told Gamasutra that Junction Point's employees have been on an extended, enforced vacation since the sequel shipped in November, and that their return date -- which was, officially, today -- was pushed back more than once. Employees were officially informed of the closure today, though some were tipped off when fellow Austin studio Roberts Space Industries tweeted about the closure Monday morning (that tweet has since been removed). We understand that several developers learned that they no longer had a job through this publicly viewable tweet. The closure follows Disney Interactive's ongoing consolidation of its development studios to focus more on digital and mobile titles. Other than its upcoming Disney Infinity project, we understand that the company is no longer publishing boxed retail games, though Disney CEO Robert Iger has stated that console games are still on the table, but "most likely in licensing rather than publishing." A statement received by Gamasutra regarding Junction Point's closure reads as follows:

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.  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.

The closure is the latest in a string of bad news for game developers in Austin. In the past 8 months alone we've seen major layoffs at Starhawk developer Lightbox, a near-shutdown of Zynga Austin, a restructuring of BioWare Austin and, just last week, the death of Vigil after bankrupted owner THQ failed to find it a buyer. jps_team_01
Junction Point in happier days: This team photo dates back to 2009, before the first Epic Mickey shipped. Junction Point was founded in 1995 by former Looking Glass and Ion Storm veterans Warren Spector and Art Min (and was, in fact, named after a cancelled Looking Glass game the two worked on). When Gamasutra first spoke to the studio in 2007, it was working on an original IP, though those plans changed when the studio was acquired by Disney later that year. Though Disney has not responded to inquiries from Gamasutra, a representative tells Wired that Spector -- a lifetime Disney aficionado, historian, and collector -- will not be employed by the company following Junction Point's closure.

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