Disney is turning to maybe the one entertainment platform where their name hasn’t yet become a joke: video games. In a statement released today following the company’s quarter 1 2024 earnings call, Disney revealed that they would be buying a $1.5 billion stake in Epic Games and will be creating games and “experiences” with the developer. First up is what they’re calling a “persistent universe” that will “interoperate” with Fortnite and allow fans to “play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar,” and any other properties Disney has acquired and ruined in the last couple of decades. They’re being pretty vague right now, but IGN thinks it will be a game that exists within Fortnite while being separate from the main game. Epic and Disney released an announcement video that you can watch below:
Considering where they are right now in terms of their movies, streaming service, and theme parks, going heavy into video games may be Disney’s best option. Gaming is currently a more lucrative industry than movies, and Disney needs some money if it’s going to pay its bills, its investors, and Gina Carano. And glomming onto Fortnite is almost a shortcut for Disney, getting access to a large audience without having to draw them to something completely new (presumably, if this works the way I think it will). And if they play this right, they could be very successful; the idea of playing as Marvel, Pixar, or Star Wars characters in an integrated universe could be a lot of fun. Visions of the Avengers assembling aboard the Death Star or the Incredibles joining forces with their inspiration, the Fantastic Four, and facing off with Doctor Doom and his army of human-hating Na’vi quickly dance through your mind. It’s every little kid’s dream when he plays with his action figures – and, if we’re being honest, adults would think it’s pretty cool, too.
But will Disney manage to stay out of their own way for a change? Will gamers be able to play as Iron Man, or will they have to settle for Ironheart? Captain America shows up in the trailer, but how long will it be before he’s swapped out for Star-Spangled Falcon? Is Darth Vader limited to cut scenes so everyone can play as Rey? That sounds crazy, but so do most of the things Disney’s done lately, and if they see success in this venture, I wouldn’t put it past them to decide they’re back in untouchable territory and start rolling out the characters nobody likes but they can’t stop forcing on us. If those characters exist alongside Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, and Tony Stark, that’s one thing; it’s a video game, so options are good. But how many bait-and-switches have we seen lately? Look how quickly Miles Morales pushed Peter Parker out of the Sony Spider-Man games. And Marvel’s Avengers was advertised with the superheroes everyone loves, only for the other shoe to drop in the form of the actual protagonist, Ms. Marvel. As with a lot of Disney’s upcoming projects, the raw potential is enough to make you forget who’s in charge of this operation.
Oh, and that “shop” thing? Yeah, get ready to open your wallet if you want to keep playing in Disney’s sandbox.