It may have been predicted by some following the financial under-performance of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, but Disney has finally confirmed the closure of Junction Point Studios. With only two games produced starring Disney’s most famous mascot, Warren Spector’s collective of like-minded developers are now out of work.
Disney, to their credit, did not make any reference to the sales or critical reception of either installment in the Epic Mickey series when making the official statement, instead addressing the closure as a sign of the overall games industry and new direction for the company’s video game branch:
“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.”
It’s likely that the “key priorities” referred to by Disney at least partially include a shift towards handheld and mobile games; a move usually seen when large publishers stack up disappointing releases (see Sega for reference). While we would warn against the growing corporate assumptions that mobile or handheld games are a solution to disappointing or low-selling games, the move makes sense given the inflated budgets often seen for major console releases.
While Disney might not be willing to appoint any blame for the studio’s closure to Epic Mickey 2, it’s no mystery that the sequel selling just over 500,000 copies (despite being sold across all major platforms) sealed the deal. While the original Epic Mickey was anything but flawless (read our review) there was certainly enough potential to build off of, and Mickey Mouse’s name alone helped Disney sell 1.3 million copies as a Wii-exclusive.
When given a second crack at the pairing of Mickey and Oswald Rabbit – on all platforms, no less – Junction Point didn’t leap at the opportunity, but stumbled out of the starting gate. Making games with serious technical issues and gameplay flaws – regardless of how passionate you may be about the source material – is no way to stay successful. High hopes and goals are good to have, and particularly fitting with Mickey Mouse’s personality. But there’s no way around it: Junction Point promised gamers a polished adventure with a beloved icon.
It’s too easy to lay the blame at the feet of Warren Spector specifically, since he defended his team against mixed reviews in the past, and building a game around the most treasured property from a colossal corporation can’t be easy. But whatever the reason, Epic Mickey didn’t give gamers what was promised in that first concept art; only an epic fail.
We sincerely wish the employees of Junction Point the best, and hope their hard work can be put to use in other studios.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.