Following poor sales and reviews for “Epic Mickey 2,” Disney Interactive has shuttered Junction Point Studios. The video game company was founded in 2005 by veteran developer Warren Spector, later acquired in 2007 by Disney to create the “Epic Mickey” series.
Disney has released a statement announcing its closure:
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.
UPDATE (1/30/13): Warren Spector posted a goodbye letter on Facebook, emphasizing his continued love of Disney despite no longer working for them:
Yes, it’s true. The Junction Point journey is over. To all those who’ve asked, or want to ask, I’m sad but excited for the future.
JPS had a good eight year run. I got to work with some amazing people on some amazing projects. I’ve had some of the most magical times of my life, fulfilling several life-long dreams. I’ve gotten to know Disney fans and Disney cast members, gotten hands on with Disney’s history, walked where Walt walked… “Magical” really is the only word.
But now it’s time to… (Man, I almost said, “now it’s time to say goodbye to all our fa-mi-ly…” Which would have led me right to “M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E!”). Let’s just say, now it’s time to move on to the next adventure. I honestly don’t know what that will be yet, so don’t ask. (And while we’re on the subject of asking, if you’re a journalist, don’t bother – all press inquiries go to Brian Nelson and Carrie Davis over at Disney.)
Anyway, whatever you think of me, or Junction Point, or Disney or the Disney Epic Mickey games – yes, I know we polarized people! – I’ll always look back on the last eight years with nothing but pride. Rarely have I worked with a team more dedicated or harder working. Never have I been part of a game – of anything, really – that touched people at as deep or personal a level as the Epic Mickey games. That’s priceless.
I said to myself as Junction Point embarked on the Epic Mickey journey that, worst case, we’d be “a footnote in Disney history.” Looking back on it, I think we did far better than that. With Mickey Mouse as our hero, we introduced a mainstream audience to some cool “core game” concepts… and, most especially, we restored Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to a place of prominence.
WE did that.
I’ll always be grateful to Disney for that opportunity, to the folks who helped out along the way in Glendale, on the studio lot in Burbank, at the parks in Anaheim and Orlando and Paris, at Disney offices around the world and at Pixar. (You know who you are!) I’m grateful to the Disney fans, bloggers and historians who embraced me, the team and our work – that was huge. And, most especially, I’ll always be grateful to the folks – the family – at Junction Point who did all the real work.
I’ll see all of you in the future!
And, really, press inquiries go to Brian and Carrie!
Junction Point, and particularly Spector, can be credited for reintroducing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to the world, fleshing him out as a character and providing his first-ever speaking role, voiced by Frank Welker. But Oswald has proved to be unlucky for the team, as sales for “Epic Mickey 2″ lagged far behind the original, which launched with tremendous hype for its dark take on the Disney universe, but ultimately suffered from camera and control issues, few of which were fixed in the sequel.
A spin-off for Nintendo 3DS called “Power of Illusion” brought a different spin on the “Epic Mickey” series in a retro throwback to 16-bit gaming, but it wasn’t enough to save the franchise.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit will surely fare better, well received by fans clamoring for merchandise, especially Oswald ear hats, and prominently featured in the recently-reimagined Disney California Adventure theme park.