Disney closes its Metaverse Division - 50 employees laid off
It seems that Disney is no longer betting on the Metaverse as the future of entertainment and is shutting down its Metaverse division.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the Walt Disney Co. is shutting down its Metaverse division and laying off about 50 employees. The closure is part of a previously announced restructuring. The company will cut about 7,000 jobs over the next two months.
Disney's Metaverse division was tasked with developing new types of storytelling and “next-generation experiences.” According to the WSJ, the unit, led by Mike White, who will remain with the company in an as-yet-unnamed role, would have developed immersive formats and interactive stories for Disney's extensive library.
In addition to well-known Disney brands such as Mickey Mouse and Arielle, the company also owns the Pixar animation studio and Marvel Comics. Disney also owns the Star Wars license and has already collaborated with Meta on a Star Wars VR attraction at Disney World.
Disney moves away from the Metaverse
Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek appointed White to head the company's Metaverse division just last year. According to an internal memo obtained by the WSJ, the goal was to create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with stories. The Metaverse, according to Chapek, is the next great frontier of storytelling.
At the heart of Disney's Metaverse plans was the Disney+ streaming platform. That's where Disney's first augmented reality movie, starring Brie Larson, has been released in the fall of 2022. Other immersive stories were planned, including VR experiences and the use of AI systems that would link visitors' experiences at Disney World to their use of Disney+.
Even then, however, Disney distanced itself from the term “Metaverse”, preferring instead to establish the term “next-gen storytelling” and Disney+ as an experience platform. It remains to be seen how the ambitious plans for the further development of Disney+ will continue after the closure of the next-gen department.