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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.

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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.

Alex Navarro on Google+
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Avatar image for captainfake
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.

Avatar image for undeadpool
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.

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Avatar image for hailinel
Posted By Hailinel
@tourgen
Great.
Why.
Avatar image for iamjohn
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.

Avatar image for bourbon_warrior
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.

Avatar image for tourgen
Posted By tourgen

Great.

Avatar image for paindamnation
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.

Avatar image for basketsnake
Posted By BasketSnake

@xMEGADETHxSLY said:

Make Better Games, PROFIT???

That make sense.

Avatar image for superfriend
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.

Avatar image for wampa1
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.

Avatar image for lordloc
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. :(

Avatar image for larrydavis
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.

Avatar image for legion_
Posted By Legion_

@jewunit said:

Not Warren Spector! Where does he go from here?

Wherever he wants.

Avatar image for shortbreadtom
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.

Avatar image for darkbeatdk
Posted By DarkbeatDK

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

Avatar image for ch3burashka
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.

Avatar image for shaanyboi
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.

Avatar image for endurancefun
Posted By EnduranceFun

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

Avatar image for burrobean
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.

Avatar image for saganomics
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.

Avatar image for mr_skeleton
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.

Avatar image for likeassur
Posted By LikeaSsur

@EnduranceFun said:

@LikeaSsur: Skyrim was good, but its insane sales aren't proportional to its quality.

You're missing the point. Something can make a lot of money and be good, which is what evanbower was trying to disprove (you even say it's good, basically agreeing with me, so why you replied is a complete mystery).

Avatar image for xmegadethxsly
Posted By xMEGADETHxSLY

Make Better Games, PROFIT???

Avatar image for wacomole
Posted By Wacomole

Hopefully some of those guys out of a job can find some work at the new CryTek (ex Vigil) offices in Austin.

Avatar image for smokepants
Posted By SmokePants

So, it took them 5 years to ship a game, then they got one out in 2 years, but it sounded like it was little more than a remix of the first game, and they had 160 employees!? They deserved to be shut down and Warren Spector should leave the game industry as he doesn't seem to have anything left to offer it.

Avatar image for nilazz
Posted By Nilazz

It's time for Warren to move on to something that will make his old fans excited!

Avatar image for saganomics
Posted By Saganomics

@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.

Not gonna stand idly by while someone besmirchs the Big Mac.

Avatar image for endurancefun
Posted By EnduranceFun

@LikeaSsur: Skyrim was good, but its insane sales aren't proportional to its quality.

Avatar image for robertorri
Posted By RobertOrri

Those games both completely failed on a gameplay level. Shallow and uninteresting with poor controls.

Avatar image for slashdance
Posted By SlashDance

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

Avatar image for baltimore
Posted By Baltimore

@Sword5 said:

Ryan Davis "They don't deserve another chance."

I hate to agree with Ryan (I'm mean Fuck that guy) but he is correct. The first game was a near unplayable mess and the second game, while better, was buggy and derivative. Not to mention that neither game was fun. They tried and failed. I'm sorry folks are out of a job but that's the way the games industry is.

Avatar image for likeassur
Posted By LikeaSsur

@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.

Avatar image for evanbower
Posted By evanbower
@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.
Avatar image for saganomics
Posted By Saganomics

@ArbitraryWater said:

On one hand, people losing their jobs is never good. On the other... maybe Warren Spector can make games I'm interested in again.

This exact sentiment went through my mind when I saw the headline.

Avatar image for darkvare
Posted By darkvare

maybe if disney had let them do the more mature and interesting take spector showed first he might have made a more appealing game but sadly it was just another baf mickey game in the end

Avatar image for arbitrarywater
Posted By ArbitraryWater

On one hand, people losing their jobs is never good. On the other... maybe Warren Spector can make games I'm interested in again.

Avatar image for smokyexe
Posted By smokyexe

Come back Alex, please.

Avatar image for youngfrey
Posted By YoungFrey

Even if 1.5 M is a great sales number for the Wii (let's assume it is), I have no idea what the development cost was and how well Junction Point stuck to it. My guess is that Disney thought their name would buy them a bigger than usual adoption for a 3rd party game.

Avatar image for blazehedgehog
Posted By BlazeHedgehog

It sucks when people lose job stability but to be perfectly honest the Epic Mickey games never lived up to their potential so I'm neither shocked nor surprised at this turn of events, nor do I feel some kind of great loss that this studio closed.

Avatar image for zeforgotten
Posted By ZeForgotten

Question is, can we somehow blame John Vignocchi for this and make it seem like it's his fault? 
Just like we blamed him for that Tron game-thingy

Avatar image for jaks
Posted By jaks

What a waste of Warren.

Avatar image for phatmac
Posted By Phatmac

Jesus... Game devs are dropping fast.

Avatar image for umdesch4
Posted By umdesch4

@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?

Avatar image for jewunit
Posted By jewunit

@GERALTITUDE: It's sad. The guy is a legitimate fan of Disney and a very talented game designer. The two aspects just did not coalesce in an interesting way. I hope the guy lands on his feet.

Avatar image for sword5
Posted By Sword5

Ryan Davis "They don't deserve another chance."

Avatar image for baltimore
Posted By Baltimore

@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.

Avatar image for hellknightleon
Posted By HellknightLeon

I don't mean this studio but... it feels like they make studios just to close them. Maybe help make a game or make "one" game and then they get closed...

Avatar image for nictel
Posted By Nictel

I just remember 'framerate!' from the QL for epic mickey 2.. It is very unfortunate for the people involved but I think if the games had been better performance wise they would have easily sold 3x more.

Avatar image for geraltitude
Posted By GERALTITUDE

Maybe a case of hindsight is 20/20, but no surprise here. Like everybody else I want to see Spector work on something I'd like but I feel we're forgetting that he wanted to work for Disney. It's not like he's a creative slave now freed from his kids-game-making master. Based on his interviews before starting Junction Point Studios, he was very much wanting to do "different" non-violent games.

Hope you learned your lesson, Warren!

Avatar image for razielcuts
Posted By RazielCuts

@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.

That's what I was thinking as well, he should go to Irrational but then I thought, I can only imagine the amount of dicks slapping on desks and pissing matches. I mean in a game of chess Spector beats Levine right? I doubt Levine would want to give up the mantel of top dawg.