There’s a chance you’ve never heard of Foxnet, but believe me when I say that you need to know about them.
Foxnet was a gaming division of Fox that primarily focused on making mobile titles. Three of their biggest games were based on existing film properties (Aliens, Avatar Pandora Rising, and Marvel Strike Force). That last one is their most successful game.
It may surprise you, then, to learn that Disney is looking to sell Foxnet as part of the fallout from their acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Why wouldn’t Disney want to keep a mobile game developer whose most popular title is based on Marvel characters? The answer to that question is also the answer to the question of why this is a very good thing for gaming.
See, Disney CEO Bob Iger doesn’t really want Disney involved with video games. At least not directly. He’s said that Disney hasn’t really done well with publishing games in the past and tends to do better with licensing.
Now, Disney and licensing don’t always work out for the best. Disney licensed Star Wars to EA, and that has resulted in a series of incredible mishaps that include bad games and even worse microtransactions. Disney licensing their properties to other studios hasn’t always worked out for the best.
However, there are times when it’s worked out rather well. For instance, Insomniac was given as much time and freedom as they needed to make their Spider-Man game, and it’s one of the best games on the PS4. Ultimate Alliance 3 was fairly fun, and Square Enix’s Avengers project at least looks interesting.
However, the important thing here isn’t the history of Disney and licensing or publishing but what the terrifying future of the video industry looks like if Disney decided to take a more active hand in publishing.
Disney is at least half of an entertainment monopoly at this point. They’ve got a bit of a stranglehold on the movie industry due to the sheer number of properties they control. They’ve found a way to pretty take over the blockbuster movie industry, and they could probably take over a sizeable portion of the gaming industry if they were interested in doing so.
They’re not interested in that, though, and that’s kind of a good thing. If Disney took a more active hand in game publishing, that means that they would probably expect their game publishing branch to be as profitable as humanly possible. Most likely, that means a lot of generic titles designed to appeal to as many people as humanly possible. It also would probably mean a lot more mobile games and maybe even Disney trying to acquire more studios and talent to make those games.
Instead, Disney is sitting back. They’re letting other studios use popular Disney properties to craft their own visions. They won’t always be the best visions, but for the moment, Disney is letting developers have the best of themselves (their properties) without having to necessarily endure the worst of themselves (namely, their potential desire to consume all that they touch and manage it all while they do it).
Disney keeping Foxnet may be a sign they want to be more active in the video game industry. The fact they’re trying to ship them off means that the gaming industry may be safe from the worst of Disney…for now.