NBCUniversal is reportedly planning to shut down their game publishing division, according to GamesBeat. The decision comes just two and a half years after the major media company expanded it. Moving forward, NBCUniversal will license their entertainment properties to external developers and publishers.
This move will affect an undisclosed amount of people working on NBCUniversal’s game publishing team. Some will leave the company while others will be reassigned to other positions within NBCUniversal. Of those leaving is executive vice president of games and platforms Chris Heatherly. For now, he “will continue his role with Universal Brand Development until the end of the year, in a transitional capacity,” according to a statement issued by Universal Brand Development.
Heatherly first started working at Universal about three years ago, running the game division and eventually creating the company’s own game publishing business in 2017. Before Universal, he worked at the ill-fated mobile games division at Disney until Disney began to move away from developing and publishing games. After moving to Universal, Heatherly worked with executives James Molinets and Tim FitzRandolph to create the game publishing division. Together, they managed to build a team of about 50 people. During this transition to licensing only, Bill Kispert and Molinets will lead the team.
NBCUniversal came to this decision not because of business failure within their game publishing division, but in favor of other priorities. This move will put some of their current projects in flux, such as Payday: Crime War and Funko Pop! Blitz, but it’s expected that they will continue under new external publishers. Universal Brand Development assured that they’re “working with [their] development partners on alternative publishing paths for some of the games in [their] mobile portfolio.”
Past NBCUniversal titles include Series: Your Story Universe, Voltron: Cubes of Olkarion, and Jurassic World: Revealed. Recently, the company opted to license Jurassic World: Evolution rather than publish it themselves. The game, published by Frontier, was a success, with over two million copies sold. The company is also reportedly working on an unidentified triple-A game with an external publisher, which is currently in development.
This comes after the recent news of Disney planning to sell game developer and publisher FoxNext after acquiring it from the 21st Century Fox merger. Hollywood companies appear to be moving away from in-house developing and publishing in favor of licensing their properties to external game companies.