Following the acquisition of 21 Century Fox by Disney, the decision has been made to sell off FoxNext, a video game developer founded by Fox in 2017 that works on such mobile games as Aliens, Avatar Pandora Rising, and Marvel Strike Force. The most successful and profitable of their games is the Marvel title, which launched in March of 2018.
The move should come as no surprise to those who have followed the various purchases by Disney as it becomes a massive entity. In early 2019, CEO Bob Iger was clear in stating that Disney has never demonstrated “much skill” in publishing games”, and that they would be satisfied with continuing multi-year licensing partnerships with external organizations. This is most clearly observed with Electronics Arts handling their Star Wars titles.
The move is being lauded by some who consider Disney to be too large for its own good at this point. Disney’s holdings make up nearly half of the entire entertainment industry, so leaving the creation of various game properties to other organizations frees up some creative control. Though, this is clearly going to be on a case by case basis, since Capcom’s Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite suffered tremendously in its development and was poorly received due in large part to creative interference.
On the other hand, those who are familiar with FoxNext may only see red flags. While Marvel Strike Force is popular, it is also constantly criticized for its pay-to-win loot box mechanics that provide character progression and gear to those willing to spend the most amount of real world money. This is not a game where one can still reasonably compete at the highest levels of play without making purchases, and the game is always reminding players of that.
FoxNext is not subtle about its demand for in-game spending either. Navigating between the main screen, the different modes of play, and the characters brings a pop-up ad for some manner of purchase. On numerous occasions, end game raid content has been tuned up to such a high level of difficulty that only those who are constantly spending have any chance to progress.
Since the launch of Marvel Strike Force, players have been vocal about their distaste for the direction of the game, and the clear pay-to-win mechanics have driven many away. Others seem content to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a month on a mobile game. These are exactly the types of mobile games that have drawn the watchful eye of legislators in numerous countries and may one day soon be banned.
With this in mind, Disney taking a step back and letting developers licence their properties is a hit and miss proposition. EA already has a terrible reputation to nickel-and-dime players, and FoxNext would not likely change anything about their business model.
With so many great developers in the video game industry, it would be wonderful to see the licences provided to those who would make a quality product, and not simply a cash grab.