Disney’s top video game chief Graham Hopper just announced to the company’s employees that he is resigning from the division that he ran for more than eight years.
Disney did not give a reason for the departure. But it’s clear that the video game industry is going through a lot of disruptions as social and mobile games join console and PC games as the drivers of growth. Executive departures in this context aren’t that surprising.
Hopper is leaving his job as general manager of Disney Interactive Studios, which has seen huge investments and big title launches in recent years. Its upcoming holiday title, Tron Evolution, is a companion video game for Disney’s big holiday movie, Tron Legacy. Hopper was able to spearhead the development of such titles. Back when Hopper took over, Disney didn’t have much credibility in video games.
Over the years, Hopper’s goal was to triple Disney’s revenues and its investment in video games, building a large collection of internal game studios to make a wide variety of games. But Disney’s game business went through a lot of changes recently. Disney bought Tapulous, the maker of iPhone music games, for an estimated $33 million. It also bought social game company Playdom for as much as $760 million to break into the market for social games on Facebook and MySpace. In a surprise move, Playdom chief executive John Pleasants became the co-president of Disney Interactive Media Group, overseeing the properties Disney acquired.
Pleasants thus became Hopper’s boss while Hopper’s previous boss, Steven Wadsworth, resigned in September. Now Pleasants will take charge of Hopper’s responsibilities as head of the game studios. It seems evident that Disney is unifying its game and internet properties under one executive. It probably didn’t help that Disney’s game business was losing money, despite its heavy investment in games.
Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger discussed the change that placed Pleasants in charge of the Interactive Media Group and its game division in a recent call with analysts.
“By putting John Pleasants in to run games, not only will he focus on turning those businesses into profitability but [he’ll focus on] diversifying our presence in the business, so we’re not reliant on one platform that’s obviously facing challenges,” he said. “It’s our goal not only to be profitable, but obviously to get there by shifting our investment.”
Here’s the complete resignation memo from Hopper below:
Dear friends and colleagues,
It seems like yesterday I was given the wonderful opportunity to lead the Disney Interactive Studios team and build a 21st century games business worthy of the Disney brand. Since taking on the challenge, I discovered we all enjoy a shared passion for great games, a vigorous creative environment and working together as a collective team which has made every day here worthwhile.
After more than eight years at DIS and 19 years at Disney, the time has come for me to move on from the company and set my sights on new horizons. During December I will transition my responsibilities to DIMG’s co-president, John Pleasants, who will continue to manage and oversee DIMG’s collective gaming strategy.
As I look back, I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our global games business has grown dramatically, we continue to attract and develop some of the best creative talent in the industry, we create award-winning products, and we’ve reached our target to become a top-five publisher on Nintendo platforms. This was all accomplished by the hard work of every DIS employee and a strong collective belief in the vision we set out to execute on many years ago. We have put Disney on the map in video games, and for that, we should all be extremely proud. As we ship our upcoming titles Disney Epic Mickey and TRON: Evolution, we can be confident that we continue to create, market and deliver high-quality, best-in-class games that both entertain and delight players. My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you and I wish you much success.
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