Disney's mobile game division has had one heck of a year. "I feel in general that we're executing very nicely on the vision we laid out a year ago," senior vice president Bart Decrem told TUAW this week. "Among media companies, we are maybe the most successful on the App Store and Android. I really feel like we are winning, and our vision and our strategy is working."
It's hard to argue with that. The company has had quite a few number one games on the App Store this year, between the enormously popular Where's My Water, the Disney cartoon spinoff Where's My Perry, Decrem's own Tap Tap Revenge series, and the popular Wreck-It Ralph movie-tie in title. Disney's mobile division was already growing last year around this time, and Decrem says it's still growing, with the company seeing a peak daily user number of around 6 million.
The company's found a formula for its popular characters and quality titles that's apparently working, and it's not slowing down anytime soon. Decrem filled us in on a ton of new content that's set to arrive on the App Store from the House of Mouse this holiday season: The company is putting out four major content updates and three new titles, all set to arrive by the end of the year.
Content updates first: Wreck-It Ralph is getting a fourth game added to the trio of titles already included in the app. Turbo Time (as you'll know if you've seen the movie) is a retro racing title that got supplanted by newer games in the old arcade, and it'll be another minigame added to the current offerings.
Both Temple Run Brave and Where's My Perry are getting new content as well. Temple Run Brave (which of course is based on a mashup between Imangi Studios' Temple Run and the recent Pixar flick) is getting a new in-app purchased character in the form of King Fergus, Merida's father, and a new mechanic to play with as well. And Where's My Perry is getting Dr. Doofenschmirtz as a playable character via IAP, and a number of new levels for free as well.
Finally, Avengers Initiative (which is a Marvel game developed by Disney's internal Wideload Studios) is finally getting its first big content update, featuring none other than Captain America. The game, which uses Infinity Blade-style mechanics to tell an original Avengers story, has only featured the Hulk so far, and debuted to less-than-impressive numbers. But Decrem says Disney is supporting the title. "We believe in the game, it's a great game," he says. "We think we have a plan for getting millions of users into the game" in the next few months, including a major upcoming marketing plan that we can look for soon.
Disney's also got three new titles incoming. The first is a Finding Nemo-related "reef builder" called Nemo's Reef, which sounds like a free-to-play Farmville-style game featuring those familiar fish. That one will be out for iOS and Android within the next week or so, so we'll look for it then.
The second game is Where's My Holiday, a special holiday themed version of the popular series, which will connect the crocodile Swampy with the cartoon character Perry in the same game, and offer a combination of levels from the two big games.
And finally, the other new title is called Monster's Inc Run. Disney has teamed up with Get Set Games in the same way it did with Imangi Studios, and has combined the Monster's Inc. movies (which are about to be rereleased in 3D) with the popular app Mega Run. This will be a 99 cent title, and will aim to share the Monster's Inc brand with the already huge Mega Run audience in the way Temple Run Brave combined a Disney property with that app's user base.
So that's what Disney's planning for the rest of this year. As you can tell, Disney's strategy is clear: It's leveraging its most popular brands as much as possible. Decrem agrees that his division is definitely leaning hard on Where's My Water, but he says that "when you have a big hit like Where's My Water, you have a holy obligation to make the most of it." Yes, Disney is spending a lot of time reworking its hit titles to try and make more hits, but Decrem says it's being done in a very strategic way. "We're not just doing reskins or franchise plays," he says, "but when you've got them, you invest in them aggressively and you evolve them aggressively." And the company is definitely doing that.
The ironic part, of course, is that much of Disney's mobile success came from the originality of Where's My Water, and it's used that success to make sure that there are now three games almost exactly like it on the App Store. But Decrem says Disney still appreciates original titles -- the Where's My Water team has mostly been working on levels for Where's My Perry, but he says they're still around, and we should see new games from them soon. Not to mention that because of all of this commercial success, future original games should be even better served. "It's a huge priority for us," says Decrem, "and I feel like we're getting more organized so that we can go do that."
There was one more pressing question for Decrem and his games: How about that Star Wars acquisition? Decrem laughs and points out that the acquisition hasn't been approved just yet, so no one in Disney games has any Star Wars projects in the pipeline just yet. "But we're super super excited about the Star Wars universe and all of these characters," he tells us, "and we'll jump in as soon as the acquisition is completed." In that case, we'll keep an eye out for Where's My Watto coming out as soon as possible.