As Disney creates worlds, so too can it destroy them. The happiest company/place on Earth no longer includes a dedicated metaverse division. Disney has cut its entire “next-generation storytelling and consumer-experiences unit,” according to a Tuesday Wall Street Journal report.
It’s an early glimpse into how the company intends to focus its planned layoffs of thousands of employees. Disney announced that it would slash 7,000 staff (approximately 3% of its total workforce) during a February investor call, amid a rather grim 2023 first quarter earnings report. The metaverse workers were the were the first to go, according to the WSJ’s unnamed sources.
The storytelling and experiences team, comprised of about 50 staff, was responsible for grappling with metaverse strategy. The next-gen storytelling unit was reportedly supposed to come up with ways to incorporate Disney characters, narratives, and other aspects of the company’s vast compendium of intellectual property into new types of interactive, digital experiences. Specifically, the company was exploring new “applications in fantasy sports, theme-park attractions and other consumer experiences,” per the WSJ.
Though, what exactly the division actually delivered and developed in its brief existence is unclear. Disney first put together its metaverse unit just last year, appointing longtime company exec Mike White to lead the charge. Notably, following the department’s dissolution, White will remain with Disney despite all of his underlings being sacked, the Journal reported. Though his new role within the company hasn’t yet been specified.
Gizmodo reached out to Disney with questions about the ongoing layoffs and the newly cut team, but didn’t immediately receive a response.
Though layoffs are generally a misguided business strategy Disney’s decision to scrap its metaverse might be a good call after all — considering it still remains to be seen how, exactly a “metaverse” differs from any other virtual reality or life-sim video game.
Even Meta, the company that’s almost certainly spent more on metaverse machinations than any other, has recently decided to shift towards greener pastures. Earlier this month, Meta announced its new priority would be artificial intelligence. If even Meta can’t make the metaverse work with $US1 billion per month investment, Disney’s patented imagineering probably wasn’t going to either.
But it seems Disney is also working to get in on the recent AI obsession. Earlier this month at South by Southwest, the company showcased its goals of deploying “emotionally intelligent AI robots” that can emotionally connect with guests at its theme parks.
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