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Disney bolsters video games unit

COMPANY TOWN

The media conglomerate hires Alex Seropian, the founder of the firm that developed the hit series Halo, as creative head of Disney Interactive and buys his studio.

September 09, 2009|Ben Fritz

Continuing to bring in creative talent and properties from the outside, Walt Disney Co. has hired Alex Seropian, a founder of the company behind the hit series Halo, as the creative head for its video game division.

In addition, Disney is acquiring Wideload Games, the development studio he runs.

The deal comes just a week after Disney agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4 billion. In 2007 it acquired online virtual world Club Penguin for $350 million. Lane Merrifield, the general manager of Club Penguin, is now working on other online projects for the company. In 2006 it purchased Pixar for $7.4 billion and put its creative guru, John Lasseter, in charge of all animation at the company.

While the Wideload acquisition is substantially smaller than those deals -- so much so that the value isn't being disclosed -- it further illustrates how the media conglomerate is making strategic purchases to expand its creative capabilities.

Seropian was a founder and the first chief executive of Bungie Studios, which created and produced Halo. Bungie was acquired by Microsoft, which published the Halo games, in 2000. In 2003, he left to start Chicago-based Wideload.

In his new role as vice president of creative at Disney Interactive Studios, Seropian will coordinate production at all eight of Disney's internal video game production studios.

"Currently our creative team doesn't have central leadership," said Graham Hopper, general manager for Disney Interactive. "He'll be working with our studios to make their work better outside of the normal review process. There are a whole suite of things we want Alex to do for us."

Wideload, meanwhile, will continue work on an original Disney-branded game property that is set for release next year.

Disney has acquired several game development studios in the last few years. Some are producing games based on the company's movie and TV properties, while others are creating original characters and worlds.

Hopper said he met Seropian several years ago at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The two began a discussion that led to the moves.

"Out of that conversation we started working hard to find something to do together," Hopper said. "As we went on, it became clear that the way Alex thinks about game development and design and the approach that has made him successful in the past was something that would do very well for us at Disney."

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ben.fritz@latimes.com

Times staff writer Dawn C. Chmielewski contributed to this report.

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