Disney is investing $1.5 billion in “Fortnite” developer Epic Games in what will be the Mouse House’s “biggest foray into the game space ever,” Disney CEO Bob Iger announced Wednesday.
“We’ve entered into a strategic relationship with Epic Games, the maker of ‘Fortnite’ to not only invest in the company — [Disney] took a minority stake of $1.5 billion investment — but we’re also creating a huge Disney universe,” Iger said in an interview on CNBC just a few minutes ahead of the company’s quarterly earnings call.
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Per further information provided by Disney, “in addition to being a world-class games experience and interoperating with ‘Fortnite,’ the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Avatar’ and more. Players, gamers and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love.”
Iger told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin the deal could also include “physical goods that will live alongside ‘Fortnite’ but be completely interconnected with ‘Fortnite.'”
The multiyear project will be powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.
Iger expanded on the Disney-Epic Games deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, later Wednesday during Disney’s quarterly earnings call with investors.
“We’ve tried our hand at video games a number of different directions and actually the one that ended up being the most successful for us was the licensing,” Iger said. “We’ve licensed I think $9 billion in franchises, including the Spider Man franchise, which was the most successful video game last year.”
Iger says upon his return as Disney CEO in 2022, he met with Disney experiences chairman Josh D’Amaro and gaming chief Sean Shoptaw to talk about the gaming business and “the first thing they showed me were demographic trends.” “And when I saw Gen Z and Gen Alpha and even Millennials, I saw the amount of time they were spending in terms of their total media screen time on video games, it was stunning to me, equal to what they spend on TV and movies,” Iger said. “And the conclusion I reached was we have to be there and we have to be there as soon as we possibly can in a very compelling way.”
The Disney chief says the partnership with Epic Games “is the best of all worlds in many respects from a business venture perspective, and certainly great for consumers who love to interact with our characters already in video game format.”
“Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with ours in ‘Fortnite,’ and they use Unreal Engine across their portfolio,” Epic Games CEO and founder Tim Sweeney said in a statement. “Now we’re collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and ‘Fortnite’ communities.”
D’Amaro added: “This will enable us to bring together our incredible collection of stories and experiences from across the company for a broad audience in ways we have only dreamed of before. Epic Games’ industry-leading technology and ‘Fortnite’s’ open ecosystem will help us reach consumers where they are so they can engage with Disney in the ways that are most relevant to them.”
See the Disney-Epic Games promo below.
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