It looks like Warner Bros’ stable of gaming studios are staying put.
In a letter to all employees, Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar has told staff that Warner Bros Interactive would remain “part of the Studios and Networks Networks group”.
The decision, which comes 90 days after Kilar was appointed CEO, comes as part of a series of structural changes within Warner Bros. This includes much bigger moves like the expansion of HBO Max, which will now be a separate business unit within Warner Bros. Warner’s “key commercial activities” are being consolidated into a single unit.
But the bigger news is that WarnerMedia’s new CEO — who was the founder of Hulu — has a vastly different view on the future of gaming. AT&T, WarnerMedia’s parent company following a $US85 billion deal in 2018, was looking to sell assets to help service around $US200 billion in debt earlier this year.
A sale of Warner Bros. Interactive would have generated around $US4 billion. But in an interview with Deadline, Kilar sees WarnerMedia’s gaming division as a crucial asset:
“And frankly, we have the best brand in the world in CNN when we look at website traffic and the power of the brand. Also, we have a very strong interactive team of about 2,000 software developers that tell interactive stories; the opportunity to go global with that is very, very big as well.”
Very little has been mentioned about Warner Bros Interactive in Kilar’s public messages. Most of the focus has been on the expected layoffs, with the consolidation expected to leave at least 800 people out of work.
But there’s no indication Warner’s gaming division will be affected. At the time of writing, here is all of the studios and publishing brands under Warner’s wing:
- WB San Diego (free-to-play mobile developer)
- WB San Francisco (Harry Potter: Wizards Unite)
- WB New York (support studio responsible for the online tech, cloud functionality and tools for various games like Shadow of War, Mortal Kombat, Injustice, Mad Max)
- WB Games Montreal (Batman: Gotham Knights)
- WB Games Boston (Asheron’s Call, Lord of the Rings Online, Batman: Arkham Underworld, Infinite Crisis)
- TT Games plus subsidiary studios (LEGO series)
- Rocksteady Studios (Batman: Arkham series)
- NetherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat, Injustice series)
- Monolith Productions (Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Shadow of Mordor, Guardians of Middle-earth, Condemned series, F.E.A.R. 1 & 2, The Matrix Online, Blood series, No One Lives Forever, Shogo: Mobile Armor Division)
- Avalanche Software (Disney Infinity series)
- Portkey Games (publishing label for all Harry Potter video games)
It’s worth noting that Warner Bros has also collaborated with Avalanche Studios, making Mad Max in 2015.
With Warner Bros holding onto their thousands of developers, it means any fears about future Middle-earth, Batman or Harry Potter games being console exclusives can be put to bed. When CNBC initially reported AT&T’s interest in selling Warner Bros Interactive, just about every major label showed interest.
Microsoft were interested in the deal, which has bought up a ton of studios over the last few years, but so were Activision-Blizzard, EA and Rockstar publishers Take-Two Interactive. Had any of those studios gone through with the deal, it would have been the largest acquisition and transfer of assets since the collapse of THQ. But as it stands, we’re entering the next generation pretty much as-is.