Five video game developers that should pitch to Disney
Have you played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order yet? It’s one of the most refreshing licensed games in years and easily the best Star Wars game this generation and possibly in the last couple of decades. It’s critical and financial success has caught nearly everyone by surprise, most of all holder of the Star Wars IP, Disney.
The overwhelming success of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (and 2018’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games) has, in fact, encouraged Disney to be a little more open with developers making original games based on their massive library of IP. The senior VP of games and interactive experiences at Disney, Sean Shoptaw, recently gave a fairly open invitation for companies to pitch ideas to The House of Mouse at the recent 2020 DICE summit in Las Vegas.
Star Wars and Marvel are presumably locked up at the moment by Electronic Arts and Square Enix respectively, but there’s almost a century of history besides those two recently acquired franchises, so plenty of stuff new and old to mine for original games. Here are five game developers I would hope will take this opportunity to pitch to Disney and hopefully get the chance to make something truly special with some of the most beloved characters in history:
#5. Studio MDHR
Yeah you know these guys, they made the amazing (and amazingly difficult) 2D side-scroller that looks like a cartoon straight out of the 1930s, Cuphead. Studio MDHR has shown that they can make a game that looks like an actual cartoon, so that’s already one huge point in their favor.
Secondly, a lot of the most fondly-remembered Disney games are 2D side-scrollers (Aladdin, The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, Ducktales, Rescue Rangers, Quackshot, etc.). This seems like such an easy idea that I want to just shove these two companies in a room until a deal is worked out. Imagine a new 2D side-scroller starring Mickey Mouse just like his classic 16-bit ones, but it actually looks like the classic cartoons (I’d also be fine with the style of the current Mickey Mouse shorts, those are great) and possibly all his pals. A multi-player 2D game somewhat in the vein of a New Super Mario Bros. but maybe with a middle ground on the challenge factor. But just imagine four people playing as Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Minnie (and some more optional characters like Daisy and Oswald) and it just being total chaos and fun. Of course, Studio MDHR could try another genre, but I’d at least like to see them do one game with Disney characters in this style, hopefully, it’ll happen at some point…
It’s impossible to overstate just how good Wayforward Games is at doing what they do. They might best be known for their really solid Shantae series, a series of 2D platforming games starring a genie, which would be enough reason because those emulate the classic 2D games of the 16-bit era pretty well. But that’s not even what I’m talking about.
What Wayforward has an insane knack for is making surprisingly good games out of what should by all rights be licensed dreck. Do you remember the disaster that was Tom Cruise’s The Mummy? They made a game based on that. And it’s actually good. They made a good game based on Hotel Transylvania, they made the only good game starring Marvel’s Thor in existence. And they made the excellent Ducktales Remastered. Not every licensed effort is some special surprisingly great game, but they manage to squeeze a diamond out of coal far more often than should be possible. If they can do that on an even occasional basis, they should just be pumping out fun small games based on Disney properties for pretty much the rest of time. If I ran Wayforward I would probably be calling Disney Interactive almost daily with pitches and Disney would be pretty foolish to turn them down.
#3. Platinum Games
Platinum Games, the developers of intense action titles such as Bayonetta, Vanquish, Astral Chain, etc. might seem like an odd company to make a Disney game. They also don’t have a great record with their efforts with licensed fare, most of it being pretty lackluster (i.e. The Legend of Korra). But bear with me here, I even have a very specific pitch that plays to Platinum’s strengths.
Platinum is undoubtedly very good at two things, great action and kick-butt female characters. I’d imagine their pitch to Disney being one, if not a series of games that reimagine the idea of what a Disney princess (at least a modern one) is. What if we had a fantastic action game made by Platinum starring Mulan? What if there was one starring all the Disney princesses with personalities like they showed in what was easily the best scene in Ralph Breaks The Internet?
So yes, what Platinum games could do is spearhead a whole new series of Disney action games where the women of Disney are complete badasses and it would be incredibly cool. For a number of reasons it might be the most out-there idea on this list, but with Disney rebooting virtually all their classics with a more modern take lately, maybe not so much…
Granted, if you think of Ubisoft as the company that pumps out games like Assassin’s Creed, Watchdogs, Far Cry and The Division, it really does not sound like a game company that would work well with Disney’s catalog of IP that’s not Marvel or Star Wars (assuming those are off-limits).
That’s just one side of Ubisoft however. This is also the company that made the Rabbids games (most importantly, the amazing Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle), the Rayman games, Child of Light and even South Park: The Stick of Truth. The point is, you can’t put Ubisoft in a box. They have their big tentpole franchises sure, but they make lots of different games. Big games, small games, weird and daring games. Ubisoft does it all. While they certainly could do a cool action game kind of in the vein of what I suggested with Platinum in the previous entry (Assassin’s Creed but starring Mulan would be a helluva game and they have yet to do ancient China in a core series game), I’d be far more interested in them doing an RPG starring Disney characters.
A tactical RPG in the vein of Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom would be pretty great. Ubisoft showed they really get these characters and use them in a way you wouldn’t think of, and it would be brilliant to see Disney characters used in that way. But honestly, I go back more to the example set by South Park: The Stick of Truth. That game nailed the look and feel of the show so insanely well, and I would love to see an RPG that is turn-based but features a huge crossover of at least core Disney characters in an almost House of Mouse fashion. It’s fairly easy to imagine a turn-based RPG where several villains have teamed up to rule the Disney universe and the various heroes must band together to stop them. So yes, Ubisoft would be a great company to pitch to Disney, but not for the stuff they are best known for, it’s their lesser-known side that is arguably greater creatively and takes bigger risks and often something incredible comes out of it.
Could the number one choice really be anyone else? Capcom has a long and storied history with Disney and making great games based on their beloved characters. And while several years ago, they seemed to be on a pretty rocky foundation, they have come roaring back lately with hits like Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2 remake and especially Monster Hunter World.
Capcom could make games in the classic 2D style a lot of us grew up on such as Rescue Rangers, Ducktales, Disney’s Magical Quest and so on. They could do a fighting game (CAPCOM vs. DISNEY). They could even do a wild crossover RPG much like the Project X-Zone games. They could do a 3D action game in the vein of Devil May Cry. Hell, they could do the Disney version of Ace Attorney and have you defending Disney characters accused of various cartoon crimes (I actually really like that idea). Capcom and Disney had a great partnership at one time and if Disney is really opening up the doors to game developers pitching them new takes on their vast library of IP Capcom should be getting first dibs to do pretty much whatever they want.
That’s the list if you have any developers you think should pitch Disney feel free to comment, see ya real soon!