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Junction Point, the Studio Behind Disney Epic Mickey, Is No More

Disney confirms yesterday's rumored closure of Warren Spector's Austin-based studio.

Confirming rumors that began to swirl yesterday, Disney Interactive Studios has confirmed today that Junction Point Studios, the Austin, Texas based development house behind the Disney Epic Mickey series, has been closed.

Initially rumors simply began via Twitter feeds acknowledging the closure of the studio, but confirmation from Disney remained nonexistent. Today, Disney released an official statement confirming the closure and acknowledging the studio's contributions to the Disney brand.

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.

Founded in 2005 by former Ion Storm heads Warren Spector and Art Min, Junction Point was purchased in whole by Disney in 2007. In 2010, the studio released its first game, the Wii-exclusive Disney Epic Mickey, followed by 2012's multiplatform, coop-focused sequel, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Unfortunately, neither game yielded strong sales, and with Disney now squarely focused on its new Infinity initiative, Junction Point didn't exactly seem to fit into the publisher's current scheme.

According to Polygon, Junction Point housed as many as 160 employees as of early last year. No word yet on how many of those employees were still in the mix as of today's closure.

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Posted by Mr_Skeleton

Maybe Spector can go make another Thief game now. Anyway as much as I hate saying this, this studio hasn't been releasing good games and maybe all the talent there can move to do better things.

Posted by Saganomics

@SlashDance said:

If Arkane Studios hired Spector, he could be working with Harvey Smith again. Just sayin'.

I vote for him hooking up with Steve Gaynor at Hot Scoops, Inc. where he can get crackin' on his "one city block" game. Gone Home 2, if you will.

Posted by Burrobean

While I always admired Spector's clear passion for the Disney characters and worlds, and loved the little details sprinkled throughout the first Epic Mickey, it was severely lacking in polish. There was a really good game in there, but you couldn't quite get at it thanks to issues with control, camera and basic design. I'd hoped that lessons learned would mean that the sequel got the attention in those areas that it deserved, but apparently no such luck (only played the demo, and was underwhelemed). The news of Junction Point closing is bittersweet for me. The ambition and ideas Spector and his team were shooting for were so promising. But if they couldn't pull them off in two games, and the second game was a major sales disappointment, I can't see an already games-shy Disney continuing to pour money into the shop. But man, I'd still love to play the game Spector and his team had in their heads, if not the one they actually got on the shelves. Best of luck to all impacted.

Posted by EnduranceFun

@LikeaSsur: No, I got the point. I simply wanted to point out that it's rarely proportional.

Posted by Shaanyboi

Well, Disney kinda fucked the original vision for Epic Mickey in the first place. Refusing to let Spector and his team take the vision as far as the concept was originally meant to go, they gimped any draw the game had, instead forcing it to rely on the mediocre platforming.

Posted by ch3burashka

Well, that's a goddamn bummer.

Remember when news came out about Epic Mickey? Remember how everyone busted a nut over that Game Informer cover? Remember how it did not live up to those expectations? Shame about the game quality, but it seemed misdirected at the time.

Posted by DarkbeatDK

Another studio shuts down! All video games are over! It's just publishers now! Greedy redundant fucks!

Posted by Shortbreadtom

I just feel bad about the 160 people losing their jobs. Can't be easy to get rehired with companies going out of business left, right and centre.

Posted by Legion_

@jewunit said:

Not Warren Spector! Where does he go from here?

Wherever he wants.

Posted by LarryDavis

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

Make better games, this is how capitalism works we can't have a cry each time a developer that isn't profitable goes down.

Yeah, pretty much. While Warren definitely had a passion for this, every time he talked about these games I couldn't help but feel sad that they definitely wouldn't live up to how good he WANTED them to be. I've wondered what Dishonored would have been like if he had jumped ship and joined Harvey after Epic Mickey 1.

Posted by LordLOC

Sad to hear about another game studio closing. Sad to see Warren Spector in this position yet AGAIN. Feel bad for all the people who lost their jobs of course. Would have been great to see the PC release of the last game, but I guess that's pretty unlikely now. :(

Posted by Wampa1

@Video_Game_King: Would definitely explain the staff at Pixar always wearing power armor and calling Lasseter "The emperor" for sure.

Disney just like Lucasarts don't seem to have a clue how to utilize their properties in the video game market. They always seem to have unreal expectations that everything with a name on it will sell without quality. The day of the licensed game selling on name alone isn't what it use to be.

Posted by Superfriend

@iAmJohn said:

Now I have no idea how well Epic Mickey 2 did (and I can't imagine it did well after the first game), but Epic Mickey is a game that sold a million and a half fucking units in its first month and Disney still called it a disappointment. How is that possible or remotely sane?

Unfortunately that´s the way this industry has turned out. Everything has to be a blockbuster. Everything has to have "triple A" production values and of course stupid high marketing budgets. All this without even the slightest clue about how many potential buyers there actually are for those games.

Make no mistake, the devs in this case didn´t exactly deliver good games.. but the complete mismanagement on the publisher´s side is something that ultimately applies to the whole industry. Publishers have no freaking clue. They listen to "analysts" who talk trash 24/7 and are wrong 70% of the time.

The worst part is: Their utterly pathetic hunt for "Call of Duty numbers" drives many developers out of business. All the while the very same people were telling you that "adventure games are dead" (European devs and Kickstarter tell me otherwise) or "nobody wants RPGs anymore" (Bethesda wipes their asses with your damn money).

This industry will fail again if these fucking assholes don´t stop treating it like the freaking lottery.

Posted by BasketSnake

@xMEGADETHxSLY said:

Make Better Games, PROFIT???

That make sense.

Posted by Paindamnation

@Legion_ said:

@jewunit said:

Not Warren Spector! Where does he go from here?

Wherever he wants.

Dude is a legend for a reason.

Posted by tourgen

Great.

Edited by Bourbon_Warrior

@evanbower said:

@Bourbon_Warrior

Make better games, this is how capitalism works we can't have a cry each time a developer that isn't profitable goes down.

Yeah. The best stuff is, without fail, always the most profitable. If you guys need me ill be watching Transformers and listening to Justin Bieber while I enjoy a Big Mac and Coke.

Despite this article saying Epic Mickey's first game was unsuccessful it is quite untrue, it sold 1.3 million in USA alone and that was a Wii exclusive, Epic Mickey 2 sold around 300,000 by the end of 2012 and that is available on PS3, 360, Wii, Wii U, PC and Mac.

So either the first Epic Mickey wasn't well received by the consumer which led to the bad sales of the sequel or maybe it was the publishers fault for pushing it out during the Royal Rumble of November, maybe the publisher rushed it out the door to make the Wii U launch, which if history tells us anything, even the most mediocre games can sell alot along side a console launch, which also makes this astonishing how low the sales numbers are.

Epic Mickey 2 was also a 3D platformer, a genre that just doesn't sell well anymore, the first probably sold alright because of nostalgia using Mickey Mouse plus it was a Wii exclusive, in a time where really the only Wii exclusives were Nintendo developed games, shitty motion controlled games or Japanese RPG's that don't sell well in America, also it had the name Warren Spector attached to it, which many informed gamers know as a game producer that has produced quality titles in his career, so a dark Mickey Mouse game developed by a Warren Spector studio sounded fantastic on paper.

Another way of looking at it is the Metacritic score, Epic Mickey 1 has a Metacritic score of 73, Epic Mickey 2 has an score between the lowest being the Wii U version of 56 to the highest score being on the Wii of 64 on the Wii U, so the critics have said this wasn't a great game and the consumer told Junction Point that with their wallet.

Posted by iAmJohn

@umdesch4 said:

@iAmJohn said:

@umdesch4: I'm really glad you posted that, because now I'm trying to comprehend how Deca Sports could've sold 2 million units.

Yeah, but I wonder when they say "shipped" (only some titles on the list say that). Does that mean they pressed and sent out that many copies, and now they're sitting out in the desert next to the old Atari ET cartridges?

It can mean that, yes. I'm not sure about how it's listed on that Wikipedia page, though; their source article literally says, and I quote: "Nintendo did confirm that [Epic Mickey] has already sold more than two million units across Europe and the US so far."

@Baltimore said:

@iAmJohn: The first game sold enough for Disney to green light a second game. But Epic Mickey 2 only sold around 270,000 copies over multiple platforms by the end of 2012. Considering how much money was spent on developments and marketing it most likely lost Disney a LOT of money (or at least what you and I would consider a lot). Sadly, this is Disney cutting their losses.

Those are pretty bad numbers for EM2 to be sure, but I'd still argue that this is a situation that Disney themselves created, forced on Junction Point and then got pissed when they couldn't deliver. And it bothers me even more because it's the same story that has happened every other time a non-gaming entity has tried to get into games, the only exception being Warner Bros. (so far).

Again, look at what happened with Propaganda Games. They made Turok for Disney, and while it wasn't a huge success by any stretch of the imagination, call me crazy but a complete reboot of a franchise whose reputation became absolutely toxic by the time Acclaim was done with it launching in the top ten in the NPDs on both platforms is pretty damn good. Instead, Disney killed the sequel and split the company into two teams working on two licensed games, then killed the promising-looking one during development because they didn't want to put out a Pirates of the Caribbean game with a Teen rating (lol wat?), then killed the studio as they were putting out their god awful Tron game. Or how about Black Rock, whose first game was a ATV racing game (because that's not a niche sport or anything), and then Disney put out Split/Second within the same week as two competing arcade racing games (oh, and Red Dead Redemption) and killed the studio when its sales were cannibalized by the competition. And now Junction Point, whose mediocre first game sold the best out of all the things I've listed here pretty much on name alone even though it was a very different take on Mickey from the standard Disney corporate line, then had to make a sequel in two years that fixed the first game's myriad issues, did its own new thing and came out on several more platforms, the ports for most of them being done in house. Noticing a pattern here?

Now granted, like @YoungFrey was getting at, the sales numbers don't matter if it doesn't make back its money, but to literally call first month sales of your game that sold 1.3 million units--I screwed up in the first post, by the way, it was actually 1.3 million first month sales... whoops!--a disappointment is proof of Disney's massive hubris. Games are a super risky, super expensive business where you have to be willing to take a loss in order to make money, like we were discussing months ago when Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning II was going to happen in spite of the first game not making money. When you've spent so much money that being one of the top selling games that month and selling a lot during that holiday season isn't enough for you to be happy, you have straight fucked up. If the game cost them too much money to develop, it's Disney's own fault for not reigning in the budget when they had the chance. Obviously you can't blame them for Junction Point not holding up their end of the deal (and there's no doubt in my mind that Epic Mickey 2 didn't sell because the first game was so problematic), but you have to blame them for constantly making the same mistakes and sticking with the wrong franchises to the detriment of hundreds of their employees that have been let go since 2010.

Posted by Hailinel
@tourgen
Great.
Why.
Posted by Undeadpool

@iAmJohn: Remember that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was ALSO called a disappointment despite selling 1.2 million copies as a BRAND-NEW IP.

It's true what they've been saying on the Bombcast: the days of games like Psi-Ops, War of the Monsters and even Twisted Metal (B-tier games) are over. Everything is now either indie or AAA-blockbuster with VERY little middleground and that's NOT a good place for an industry to be. I'm not saying it's the end of videogames, I'm saying it's going to be a very messy self-correction.

Edited by CaptainFake

If an outlet as mainstream as The New York times was writing articles several months ago about the uncertain future of the Epic Mickey franchise, this news can come as no great surprise. It's definitely sad news for the folks at Junction Point, but the writing was on the wall the minute Epic Mickey 2 released to minimal fanfare.

The Times reported that Disney's higher-ups want to focus their game development on browser, mobile and social stuff rather than hefty console releases. So, you know. More of the same for the industry right now. It's a bummer that the Epic Mickey franchise didn't score a knockout, but we'll always have our memories of charming SNES/Genesis-era Disney platformers to keep us warm at night.

EDIT: Oh, yeah, and I guess that Disney Infinity thing, which certainly looks like it's gonna be a hefty console release.

Posted by mrfluke

bummer, Warren spector really believed in those games and that studio.

hope warren spector lands somewhere, he should go work with that edios team on the next deus ex.

Posted by zerdune

It would be cool if Spector went to work on Thief 4 or Dishonored 2.

Posted by iAmJohn

@Undeadpool said:

@iAmJohn: Remember that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was ALSO called a disappointment despite selling 1.2 million copies as a BRAND-NEW IP.

It's true what they've been saying on the Bombcast: the days of games like Psi-Ops, War of the Monsters and even Twisted Metal (B-tier games) are over. Everything is now either indie or AAA-blockbuster with VERY little middleground and that's NOT a good place for an industry to be. I'm not saying it's the end of videogames, I'm saying it's going to be a very messy self-correction.

Reckoning wasn't called a disappointment by EA, though, otherwise I'd guess they wouldn't've entertained talks about the sequel. I don't particularly give a fuck what Lincoln Chaffe thinks is a sales success when he doesn't understand how the industry works or that the game could still be successful even if it didn't directly make 38 Studios money.

The one thing I'm hoping with the new generation is that we'll see the middle ground really come back. I don't think B-tier has gone away. If anything, I'd argue that Dead Island, Saints Row The Third and basically anything made by Kalypso or CD Projekt is proof that it's still around, but what it means to be a B-tier product is changing. But I agree with you that we're in a really dangerous space with where the consoles are now that you either have super expensive retail games that need to sell infinite copies or small downloadable games.

Posted by ESREVER

Lotta Austin studios closin' up shop. Kinda weak... Oh well, at least there's a new Crytek studio here, for the time being.

Edited by mordukai

@umdesch4 said:

@iAmJohn said:

but Epic Mickey is a game that sold a million and a half fucking units in its first month and Disney still called it a disappointment.

1.5 million sales on a Wii exclusive? Geez, that's pretty amazing. How much better could they possibly have expected it to sell? That's ridiculous. For reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_Wii_video_games

According to VGchartz (so take the numbers with a grain of salt) the second game sold about 1.14 million across multiple platforms and while the number as a whole is a decent one it's still quite low if you consider the sales for each platform. Unfortunately the cold hard, and sometimes sad, fact of the video game industry is that you're only as good as the last game you made.

EDIT: I was referring to the second game. Fixed my comment.

Posted by UltimAXE

This makes me sad because Mickey Mouse holds a special place in my heart, and I've always wanted to see him make a gigantic comeback. A 2D animated theatrical film with an insane marketing campaign or an amazing console game were exactly the kind of outings that I've been dying to see him in again. Then Epic Mickey comes out and just kind of leaves us all underwhelmed, failing to live up to that original concept art. Epic Mickey 2 is released to even less fanfare. I feel like Disney is going to interpret this as nobody giving a shit about Mickey anymore.

Sucks for all of the folks losing their jobs, of course, but it also sucks to see such an iconic character stumble so much when given an opportunity to stand in the spotlight again.

Posted by Luck702

Jesus, first THQ, then Atari, now this studio. This has been a pretty terrible month for the games industry.

Posted by arimajinn

Remember when Warren Spector used to make good games?

Posted by Curufinwe

@arimajinn said:

Remember when Warren Spector used to make good games?

I hope that he will do so again in the future.

Posted by Cold_Wolven

As to be expected when you make 2 games that both receive poor critical reception and produce weak sales.

Edited by ProfessorEss
@PimblyCharles said:

Wow, it's bad a bad start for this year of gaming. So many closings and buy outs. Hopefully these developers find other jobs in the industry.

Devil's Advocate/Silver Lining here but maybe this is exactly what we need. Maybe years from now this sad news of early 2013 will be remembered as the beginning of a restructuring that would benefit gaming in the long run.
 
I feel for all the people losing jobs, but maybe there is just too many jobs employing too many people who just aren't good and/or passionate enough. Maybe the industry is due for bit if a purge to separate the cream from the bloat and the and re-concentrate the talent into fewer superior teams, leading to fewer but superior releases.
Posted by Mystyr_E

First problem was setting shop in Austin. Don't people know that it's a movie town? Games are not welcome there, ask the Old Republic /kappaface

Posted by falling_fast

best of luck to everyone who was employed there on finding jobs in the future :(

still a little bit upset that Epic Mickey never lived up to its potential

Posted by subyman

With so many devs losing their jobs, maybe we will see a ton of indie games?

Posted by Jay_Ray

People want new consoles but new consoles will only magnify the all or nothing approach games are moving in. It simply costs to much money to make a boxed game that anything below 2+million in sales can be catastrophic.

Edited by Nardak
Posted by Senate4242

@UltimAXE said:

This makes me sad because Mickey Mouse holds a special place in my heart, and I've always wanted to see him make a gigantic comeback. A 2D animated theatrical film with an insane marketing campaign or an amazing console game were exactly the kind of outings that I've been dying to see him in again. Then Epic Mickey comes out and just kind of leaves us all underwhelmed, failing to live up to that original concept art. Epic Mickey 2 is released to even less fanfare. I feel like Disney is going to interpret this as nobody giving a shit about Mickey anymore.

Sucks for all of the folks losing their jobs, of course, but it also sucks to see such an iconic character stumble so much when given an opportunity to stand in the spotlight again.

I couldn't agree more. I wanted these games to be good soooo bad and while the first one was pretty good at least, the second one felt like a hot mess. The style and aesthetics were there, but on a technical level it was broken. I don't even know what to do or where to go in the second one, and the whole Oswald being needed for certain puzzles is agonizing. I picked up the 3DS version as well, but after watching the quicklook on here I don't even have the heart to unwrap it..

Poor Mickey.

Posted by Fattony12000

SPECTOR GANG SIGNS.

Posted by Marz

sucks that people lost their jobs, Warren Spector one of my favorite game designers but what was he thinking with these Epic Mickey games!

Edited by evanbower

@LikeaSsur said:

@evanbower said:

@Bourbon_Warrior

Make better games, this is how capitalism works we can't have a cry each time a developer that isn't profitable goes down.

Yeah. The best stuff is, without fail, always the most profitable. If you guys need me ill be watching Transformers and listening to Justin Bieber while I enjoy a Big Mac and Coke.

Hyperbole isn't necessary. The Beatles, Playstation 2, Skyrim, Inception, and a lot of other things are both good and financially successful.

Certainly. Take all of our examples together though and we can at least say the idea that "if your product is of high quality, capitalism will allow it to survive" is not a reliable rule. Not that I think the Epic Mickey franchise was some under-appreciated gem, just that what said was a poor explanation for their failure.

Posted by Pixeldemon

@paulunga said:

@jewunit said:

Not Warren Spector! Where does he go from here?

Honestly, wherever he wants. He's Warren fucking Spector. He should join Ken Levine at Irrational and get to work on a new Thief.

Yeah, pretty much this. Spector has credits in some of the most loved games* of all time so it's a bit confusing that he sunk so much effort into this Epic Mickey stuff.

*Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Deus Ex, Thief.

Posted by triviaman09

I really wish the Epic Mickey thing had worked out better than it did.

Posted by Saganomics

@Pixeldemon said:

@paulunga said:

@jewunit said:

Not Warren Spector! Where does he go from here?

Honestly, wherever he wants. He's Warren fucking Spector. He should join Ken Levine at Irrational and get to work on a new Thief.

Yeah, pretty much this. Spector has credits in some of the most loved games* of all time so it's a bit confusing that he sunk so much effort into this Epic Mickey stuff.

*Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Deus Ex, Thief.

He's a huge Disney fan so it's not really confusing at all.

Posted by steelerzfan101

Ah geez, thats a huge shame! Warren Spector seemed like a pretty ambitious dev! As I have been saying a lot recently, I hope everybody affected lands another job!

Posted by kpaadet

@arimajinn said:

Remember when Warren Spector used to make good games?

Barely.

Posted by LegendaryChopChop

Seems like every single game studio is shutting down. Hope people like the EA/Activision/purely indie future with no middleground.

Posted by Vigil80

I wonder if things would be different if the first Epic Mickey had delivered on the promise of the concept art.

Oh well. I'm confident Spector is off to bigger and better things. I hope the same can be said for the rest of the staff.

Edited by ProfessorEss
@Senate4242 said:

@UltimAXE said:

This makes me sad because Mickey Mouse holds a special place in my heart, and I've always wanted to see him make a gigantic comeback. A 2D animated theatrical film with an insane marketing campaign or an amazing console game were exactly the kind of outings that I've been dying to see him in again. Then Epic Mickey comes out and just kind of leaves us all underwhelmed, failing to live up to that original concept art. Epic Mickey 2 is released to even less fanfare. I feel like Disney is going to interpret this as nobody giving a shit about Mickey anymore.

Sucks for all of the folks losing their jobs, of course, but it also sucks to see such an iconic character stumble so much when given an opportunity to stand in the spotlight again.

I couldn't agree more. I wanted these games to be good soooo bad and while the first one was pretty good at least, the second one felt like a hot mess. The style and aesthetics were there, but on a technical level it was broken. I don't even know what to do or where to go in the second one, and the whole Oswald being needed for certain puzzles is agonizing. I picked up the 3DS version as well, but after watching the quicklook on here I don't even have the heart to unwrap it..

Poor Mickey.

I too am I sucker for Mickey and I'm feeling these posts right here. 
 
All I can hope is that Disney sees this and thinks "If we can sell 1.5 million by putting Mickey in a bad game, I wonder how much a good one would sell?". 
 
I hope they give Mickey another shot. Maybe keep things a little simpler this time around. Oh, and maybe get the developers to play some Rayman: Origins before they start ;)
Posted by Carryboy

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

Make better games, this is how capitalism works we can't have a cry each time a developer that isn't profitable goes down.

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