Disney is allegedly planning to sell FoxNext, an interactive experience studio that existed under 20th Century Fox during Disney’s purchase of the company. Bloomberg reported the possible sale on Wednesday, but without any destination for the in-house studio.
It lines up with Disney’s past exhibited attitudes on video games. Its video game products weren’t pushed as much as its other products, likely with the exception of Disney: Infinity and Kingdom Hearts 3. (The latter felt like a surprise success, with the Square Enix side garnering the most attention for work and publicity until KH3.) Instead, Disney looked to outsource their video game products. Even after Electronic Arts’s heavily-criticized launch of Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Disney doubled down on their preference to license games, instead of handling it in-house.
“We’re good at making movies and television shows and theme parks and cruise ships and the like, we’ve just never managed to demonstrate much skill on the publishing side of games,” CEO Bob Iger explained in a call earlier this year. In a quote, according to Variety:
Over the years, as you know, we’ve tried our hand at self-publishing, we’ve bought companies, we’ve sold companies, we’ve bought developers, we’ve closed developers. And we’ve found over the years that we haven’t been particularly good at the self-publishing side, but we’ve been great at the licensing side which obviously doesn’t require that much allocation of capital. Since we’re allocating capital in other directions … we’ve just decided that the best place for us to be in that space is licensing and not publishing. We’ve had good relationships with some of those we’re licensing to, notably EA and the relationship on the Star Wars properties, and we’re probably going to stay on that side of the business and put our capital elsewhere.
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FoxNext is currently most well-known for its free-to-play mobile game, Marvel Strike Force. It also has other free-to-play games such as Futurama: World of Tomorrow and X-Files: Deep State, each of which were made in cooperation with both Fox subsidiaries and other companies such as Jam City and Creative Mobile. There was an Alien: Blackout game in the works as well, but the status of the game is unknown if the sale goes through.
While its free-to-play games drew attention, FoxNext actually first published virtual reality titles. Alien: Descent was a live, immersive VR “experience” in collaboration with Pure Imagination Studios, formerly open in California. They also released Crisis on the Planet of the Apes in 2017, formerly a Fox Innovation Lab project before FoxNext opened.
Interestingly, FoxNext was also involved in the initial planning for “20th Century Fox World,” which was a 20th Century Fox theme park. Local resort business Genting Malaysia Berhad agreed to contribute $300 million to the project. However, tensions apparently rose when both Fox and GMB became involved in lawsuits against each other. GMB accused Fox, including rumored buyer Disney, of wanting to back out of the deal frivolously. Fox/Disney retaliated with their own counter-claim, claiming GMB was not meeting deadlines. They settled the suit; the theme park dropped Fox’s name, but Fox will still have themed attractions. FoxNext’s role in the project is now unknown, as is the attractions’ fate if the sale occurs.
Neither Disney nor FoxNext has returned a comment to any reporting publications.