WB Games president David Haddad is giving more signals that WB Games will probably survive the merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery without any major cuts. The division is apparently profitable, and there have been no layoffs or cuts among his team or the company’s 11 video game studios.
That information (shared in an interview with Axios) makes WB Games one of the exceptions to the rule in Warner-owned subsidiaries being integrated. WB/Discovery CEO David Zaslav and his executive team have made ruthless cuts to Warner Bros. operations.
The most public cancellations have included nearly-complete projects at subscription service HBO Max, but firings and adjustments behind the scenes have caused weeks of chaos in the entertainment industry.
According to Haddad, WB Games’ studios have benefitted from a division-wide push for “game quality.” That push has led to several project delays and the cancellation of last-gen ports of WB Games’ Montreal upcoming Bat-family game Gotham Knights. A recent delay of Harry Potter Hogwarts Legacy was also made with that mantra in mind.
Haddad also told Axios that the company’s new leadership “has expressed a strong belief in the growth of the games business and being part of that overall company strategy.”
Prior to Haddad’s comments, the only clue we had that WB/Discovery was pleased with its video game division was a brief positive comment about sales of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga in the company’s most recent financial report. Warner Bros. had previously floated the idea of selling the games division back in 2020.
Where do games fit in WB/Discovery’s strategy?
It’s good news for the developers working at WB Games’ various studios that management doesn’t want to shut them down. But with HBO Max being stripped apart for spare parts, one wonders what the executive team behind Property Brothers wants with a video game division.
The most ho-hum answer is of course, more franchise power. Though a number of DC Comics-inspired projects have borne the brunt of cuts and cancellations, company management has made clear that it wants big-budget blockbusters that can dominate movie theaters. Many of those will feature DC Comics superheroes, and other major WB properties like Harry Potter are likely to get a shot in the arm.
Blockbuster film franchises can be boosted by big blockbuster video games. Though WB has few direct adaptations in the works, Hogwarts Legacy might boost the Harry Potter franchises’ public standing (even if Harry Potter author J.K Rowling’s rampant transphobia is doing exactly the opposite).
It is hard to take good news at face value given many of the other decisions made at HBO Max in the last few weeks. Laid-off employees have told The Daily Beast that cuts and layoffs disproportionately impacted diverse teams, replacing them with all-white substitutes.
The cancellation of the Batgirl film and numerous animated HBO Max projects sound like the worst possible version of a video game cancellation: projects are being immediately taken down, staff members are being suddenly cut off from accessing footage, and executives are being frank that all of this is being done in the name of tax breaks and cutting the cost of royalty payments.
It’s good that WB Games is safe for now. It’s worrying to think about what steps executives might take if that even slightly begins to change.