Despite being one of the largest companies on the planet with fingers in almost every media pie you can imagine, Disney has always struggled to make it in the video game industry. Prior to the 1980s, the company had licensed out its characters to other gaming studios and focused on creating educational PC software, but that all changed with the 1998 release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Despite not having a lot of time or experience to work with, the WFRR video game was a success, selling over 250,000 copies.
This encouraged Disney to make more games, many of which were simply the video games versions of their movies. Hercules, Aladdin, Tarzan and more characters all appeared on various consoles and yet, considering Disney is such a big company, they never really topped any charts. In 2011, Disney was ranked in fifteenth place on the top public video game companies list by Newzoo, where the company stayed until 2015.
Then, in 2016, everything changed thanks to Chris Heatherly, head of Disney Interactive’s mobile game department. Soon, Disney mobile games were ranked fourth on top-grossing worldwide lists with games featuring popular Disney characters, Marvel superheroes and Star Wars Jedi warriors topping the charts.
Disney isn’t the only big studio to turn to mobile games in recent years either. As far back as 2011, DC Comics partnered with NetherRealm Studios to create Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, the first of many DC-inspired mobile games. Meanwhile, DreamWorks has several Shrek and How To Train Your Dragon-themed mobile games, and Universal has mobile games for everything from Ted to Jurassic World.
So, why are companies creating so many mobile games when there’s a much longer history of console and PC games being successful? Well, because mobile games just may be the future of gaming. While not everyone has a console or gaming computer, the majority of human beings now have access to a smartphone. They can carry the compact device around with them anywhere, meaning that they can access their favourite games anywhere and at any time.
Mobile games aren’t restricted just to apps either, as all smartphones come with preinstalled browsers that allow users to access browser-based online games too. One industry that caught on to this very early was iGaming, with mobile casino games such as slots, blackjack and baccarat attracting thousands of players and inspiring other online games developers to create mobile-friendly sites – something Disney, DreamWorks and Universal have all done since.
Finally, one of the biggest factors is the fact that most mobile games are incredibly cheap, if not free, to download or access. So, between accessibility, ease, variety and cost mobile games simply have all other forms of gaming beat. Even now, Disney is continuing to create more deals with mobile game developments, with the most recent one being with Jam City. Disney and numerous other studios know that mobile gaming will allow them to thrive where they have often struggled, finally allowing them to enter and excel in the lucrative, exciting gaming industry.