Disney is ditching its metaverse plans after laying off an entire team focused on interactive storytelling, report says

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Disney is ditching its metaverse plans after laying off an entire team focused on interactive storytelling, report says
Disney's metaverse unit included roughly 50 employees who were all laid off in recent cuts at the company.Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Disney laid off its entire metaverse team, which included around 50 people, in recent cuts.
  • It's the latest firm to abandon its metaverse ambitions, despite assembling a team just a year ago.
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Disney is the latest company to abandon its metaverse plans and has laid off its entire interactive storytelling team, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The company's next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences unit, which focused on developing metaverse strategies, was put on the chopping block as part of a broader restructuring and cost-cutting effort implemented by CEO Bob Iger, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.

The team which was headed by Mike White, a former consumer-product executive, included roughly 50 people who have all been made redundant, as the company goes ahead with its plans to lay off 7,000 people, the people said. White is still employed by Disney but his role remains unclear.

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Disney's former CEO Bob Chapek hired White in February 2022 and told employees in an internal memo that the plan was to "create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories," according to the Journal.

White's team was responsible for exploring ways of interactive storytelling through new technological formats. While Disney's overarching strategy regarding the metaverse was not completely clear, the company has produced some augmented reality content, such as a short film starring Brie Larson released in September 2022.

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Disney did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment about the layoffs.

Chapek, who was replaced by Iger in November 2022, was bullish about the metaverse and even invested in a metaverse startup Genies which developed customizable avatars.

Under Chapek, the company patented a number of metaverse technologies including a "virtual-world simulator" for its theme parks in January 2022.

"Our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we'll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse," Chapek said in an earnings call at the time, per Insider.

The company was hiring for a variety of metaverse roles in February 2022, including a product design manager, digital creative, and director for sales and digital marketing.

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Now, Disney managers are under pressure to identify employees to layoffs and areas where they can reduce budget, a person familiar with the company told Insider's Claire Atkinson earlier in March.

The company has a target to slash $5.5 billion in costs, Disney's chief financial officer Christine McCarthy told investors in a call.

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