David Haddad, the longtime head of Warner Bros. Games, is feeling good at a pivotal moment for his 11-studio team.
Why it matters: It’s been a banner year for WB Games since 2020, after an uncharacteristically sluggish hiatus with no major internal releases.
- It has done the same amid high-profile job cuts and program cuts in other divisions of the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery Group.
- Haddad told Axios that his division was profitable and his team was well supported, with no layoffs and no new owners cutting projects.
detail: WB Games’ 2022 hits started in April with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which outsold everything on this side of Bandai Namco’s Elden Ring. Then there was the externally developed MultiVersus in July, which was the best-selling game of the month in the US and just passed the 20 million player mark.
- Blockbusters still expected to release include the Batman-themed Gotham Knight (October), Hogwarts Legacy (February) and Suicide Squad: Killing the Justice League (TBD 2023).
- There is also a large-scale Harry Potter mobile game produced in cooperation with NetEase this year.
What are they talking about: “One of our superpowers is the strength of these 11 studios,” Haddad told Axios on a video call overlooking Warner Bros.’ corner office.
- Developers at these studios have been working on game development during WB Games’ quieter days, Haddad said, as he repeatedly emphasized the department-wide push for game quality.
- He’s cancelling Gotham Knights versions for older consoles and the recent nine-week delay of Hogwarts Legacy as part of the division’s strategy to provide “an opportune time to deliver the best experience.”
Discovery factors: Haddad has kept his position while other Warner leaders were cleared after the deal was discovered. He’s full of confidence that his team won’t be overwhelmed.
- “I do believe, especially going forward, that we have a critical role to play within the company,” he said, describing a division-wide opportunity to bring corporate franchises to those who prefer gaming over other media people.
- Asked if the division would be around for the long haul, he said: “Warner Bros. has found leadership expressing a strong belief in the growth of the gaming business as part of the company’s overall strategy.”
- Bloomberg and CNBC reported that former owner AT&T had tried to sell the studios for $4 billion in 2020.
Big picture: Compared to media rivals Disney, which spun off studios in 2016, and Netflix, which has only recently started acquiring some small teams, WB’s in-house development is much stronger.
notes Among the three major games of WB Games:
- Haddad builds free MultiVersus As a testament to the division’s potential in enduring games running as a service. With plans to expand the roster, it could be another Fortnite full of crossovers, though Haddad said the team’s “focus and focus” on roster growth will be on WB Discovery’s existing intellectual property.
- Post critically acclaimed Lego Star Wars Questions have been raised about the future of WB Games’ LEGO license. “We have been long-term LEGO partners and we are excited to continue working together,” Haddad said. It also took a look at working conditions at WB’s TT Games studio, which the company says it’s committed to.
- Trailer for Hogwarts Legacy It has always been popular, but given Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s comments about transgender people, some potential players have called for a boycott of the game. Bloomberg reports that the game’s developers have pushed for the inclusion of transgender characters in the game, and WB Games has previously said that Rowling was not “directly involved” in the game. When asked about people who might shun the game to avoid supporting Rowling, Haddad said, “We will continue to be very focused on the games we make and the great work Avalanche Studios has done.” He added: “We hope Everyone who loves the world, who loves these stories, who loves these characters.”
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