Disney is reportedly shutting down its metaverse division

disney metaverse

Disney appears to have shelved plans for a virtual reality metaverse, as reports emerge that the division’s staff have all been laid off.


The Walt Disney Company has closed its metaverse division, The Wall Street Journal reports (via TechCrunch). It’s a move said to affect around 50 staff.

As recently as late 2022, Disney was bullish about the possibilities of a virtual reality, IP-laden sandbox, with Mike White hired as the company’s metaverse executive in February that year. In October 2022, Forbes relayed Disney’s excitement about the metaverse, as Disney’s then-boss Bob Chapek described it as “the next great storytelling frontier.”

Like a lot of things to do with web3, though, what exactly White and his metaverse team were planning remained vague. There was talk of using virtual reality and augmented reality. Blockchain technology and NFTs got a mention. Even Chapek himself seemed a bit uncertain about what they were making.

“We realise that it’s going to be less of a passive-type experience where you just have playback,” he said in an earnings call, “whether it’s a sporting event or whether it’s an entertainment offering and more of an interactive, lean-forward, actively engaged type experience.”

All anybody really seemed to know was that Disey’s metaverse would rope in its vast array of intellectual properties, from Mickey Mouse to Marvel to Star Wars, and that it could somehow grab a slice of a growth industry predicted by some analysts to be worth $13 trillion.

More recently, opinions – or at least CEOs – have changed. Bob Chapek was replaced by by Bob Iger last November. A company-wide cost-cutting drive followed, with three rounds of layoffs reportedly planned. The first round alone will affect some 7,000 staff across Disney’s divisions.

What this means for the future of the metaverse at Disney isn’t clear. But with Meta admitting that its immersive, VR-enabled worlds likely won’t come to fruition for some 15 years, and the tech industry now banging the drum for AI, Disney’s plans for a superhero, spaceship and rodent-filled digital universe appear to be on hold.

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