Disney has shut down its metaverse division and laid off all of the team's 50 or so members as part of a broader restructuring process, according to The Wall Street Journal. It was just over a year ago when former Disney CEO Bob Chapek tapped company veteran Mike White to lead the team in its task of finding interactive ways to tell Disney's stories using new technologies. While the rest of team has lost their jobs, White will remain at the company, though it's unclear what role he's taking on going forward.
The executive's plan to launch an Amazon Prime-like subscription service for Disney has reportedly also been scrapped. It would've created a single user experience for Disney+, the company's retail operations and its apps that people use to purchase food and merchandise at Disney theme parks.
Chapek was hopeful and optimistic about Disney's future when it came to the metaverse and previously said that the company should excel at "blending... the physical and digital experiences." He called the metaverse "the next great storytelling frontier." The division's closure doesn't necessarily mean that Disney is abandoning its metaverse ambitions for good, though. As The Journal notes, Bob Iger, who returned as CEO to replace Chapek in November 2022, showed that he also sees a future in the metaverse when he joined the board of an animated avatar startup.
While Iger may have another strategy in mind, it may take some before we hear about it. Disney has been under pressure from investors to implement serious cost-cutting measures, and it previously announced that it was going to lay off 7,000 employees. According to TechCrunch, it will have three rounds of layoffs, with the first one taking place this week. The metaverse team might simply be one of the first teams impacted by Disney's significant restructuring efforts. In the note TechCrunch obtained, Iger said the company will send a larger round of layoff notifications in April and will notify the last affected employees before the beginning of summer.