Looks Like Warner Bros Is Keeping Their Gaming Division After All

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Looks Like Warner Bros Is Keeping Their Gaming Division After All

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:

microsoft warner bros gaming
Image: Middle-earth: Shadow of War
  • 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 WarMortal KombatInjusticeMad Max
  • WB Games Montreal (Batman: Gotham Knights
  • WB Games Boston (Asheron’s CallLord of the Rings Online, Batman: Arkham UnderworldInfinite 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 & 2The Matrix OnlineBlood series, No One Lives ForeverShogo: 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-earthBatman 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.

Comments

  • Smart play – Warner were one of the few old media companies to build even a halfway decent gaming division, and they would have been crazy to cede that. It’s one of the few creative industries largely safe from Disney, and with the right support Warner could be a strong player and shake up the industry a bit.

  • It’s not clear how valuable the studios are without the guarantee of access to other Warner IP to adapt.

    Presumably any sale would include a time limited license to the currently used properties, but would eventually have to renegotiate or compete with other studios working with the same IP.

      • Sure, but I can’t imagine Warner giving a perpetual license on those properties either. While there would almost certainly be some level of exclusivity, Warner would want some way to claw back the properties if they believed the new owners were damaging the brands.

        • Sure, but the view on these kinds of things in the corporate world is vastly different to the consumers’ idea of “brand damage”. Case in point: see how happy Disney are with the EA licensing deal.

  • The decision to sell was pre-Covid and with television and movie production crippled, WB would have had to reassess their IPs. In isolation and the next gen coming their is a resurgence in gaming.

  • IO Interactive, the makers of Hitman series, broke off to self-publish Hitman 3 for summer. I wonder if their break away deal was part of this and they got early to buy themselves out.

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