WarnerMedia, formerly Time Warner, is one of the biggest companies in entertainment media regarding their ownership of popular IPs. Their gaming arm, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, otherwise known as WB Games, has created titles under DC Comics, Middle-earth, Lego, and Harry Potter licenses, with some highly-anticipated games on the way.
However, news has emerged that their parent company, AT&T, will be offloading the glut of its media assets to Discovery in a transaction that would net the sellers some $43 billion in value. As such, gamers are naturally wondering what the situation is with upcoming games like Hogwarts Legacy and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.
- Not all WB Games studios will follow WarnerMedia to Discovery, per reports.
- The WarnerMedia-Discovery deal is earmarked to be completed in mid-2022.
- Hogwarts Legacy, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and Gotham Knights set for 2022 releases.
- Studios that remain under AT&T may lose licences to develop future licensed video games.
- AT&T attempting to recoup value from the 2018 Time Warner acquisition, so may seek to sell remaining studios post-Discovery deal.
Discovery to get WB Games studios, but not all of them
On 17 May, it was announced that WarnerMedia would be spun off to Discovery – the popular non-fiction television company. The deal shifts WarnerMedia’s sports, news, and entertainment assets to Discovery, including game studios.
The news certainly startled some close followers of the games in production under the WB Games umbrella, particularly those awaiting the release of Hogwarts Legacy and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. This is primarily because Discovery isn’t known for gaming, and AT&T is said to be splitting the game division rather than bundling them all over to Discovery.
Given that AT&T attempted to sell off some of their game studios last year, as reported by Bloomberg, and that their focus is now shifted back to broadband, per ARS Technica, it would be fair to assume that the Texas-headquartered company would seek to offload any studios left out of the WarnerMedia-Discovery deal.
The stance that AT&T would seek to sell any remaining studios is further backed by what this deal with Discovery represents. As detailed by Axios, the $43 billion sale is essentially a course correction. Back in June 2018, AT&T closed on its acquisition of the then-Time Warner for $85 billion and attempted to muscle-in on the massive streaming market with HBO Max.
Despite getting around 20 million subscribers, WarnerMedia content alone wasn’t sufficient to make the size of splash intended. Still, it should prove to offer a substantial boost to the existing Discovery platforms, which boast 15 million subscribers. Essentially, though, attempting to expand into media content markets didn’t work this time for AT&T, and now they need to pay down the debt accrued through such deals as the Time Warner merger.
Since becoming officially owned by AT&T in mid-2018, WB Games has released several Lego titles, mobile games like Westworld and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and some triple-A titles, including Hitman 2 and Mortal Kombat 11. The 2017-founded Portkey Games label is also included under the WB Games banner and has had a hand in each of their Wizarding World releases since 2018.
Next on the slate is Back 4 Blood, followed by the intended 2022 releases of Gotham Knights, Hogwarts Legacy, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
What does the WarnerMedia-Discovery deal mean for the game studios?
As it stands, it appears to be a case of business as usual. The deal itself likely won’t be completed until mid-2022, subject to closing conditions, such as regulatory approvals, and shareholder approval from Discovery’s end. Given that Discovery is famed for its non-fiction TV shows and almost nothing else, it’s understandable that people would question the company’s intentions when it comes to the much-loved game studios.
Although it hasn’t led to any groundbreaking, headline-catching releases to date, Discovery worked its way into the gaming industry back in 2019. The launch of Discovery Game Studios was aimed at creating new ways to experience some of the TV network’s biggest properties by working with other major game developers.
As it stands, the Discovery Store lists Diesel Brothers: Truck Building Simulator (by Code Horizon in 2019), This is the Zodiac Speaking (by Punch Punk Games in 2020), and Deadliest Catch: The Game (by 4Fishing in 2020). None of them have earned particularly favourable review scores, with the range of developers and publishers signalling that Discovery has been more of a licenser to date. There is yet to be any news concerning the Discovery Game Studios directly developing its own games.
The WarnerMedia-Discovery deal might just see some of the 11 WB Games studios move under the Discovery Game Studios umbrella, or just see Discovery scrap its infrastructure in favour of the new, established WB Games studios. However, as noted above, it’s not yet been revealed which studios will be included in the deal. As Discovery would, presumably, absorb the licences of WarnerMedia in the deal, those left out may not be able to create games set in their familiar licensed universes with AT&T or if sold elsewhere.
The big ones being watched are Avalanche Studios (currently working on Hogwarts Legacy), Rocksteady Studios (Arkham saga, and now Suicide Squad), Traveller’s Tales (Lego games), and Monolith Productions (Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and War) due to their superb or highly-anticipated application of the licences made available by WarnerMedia.
It seems unlikely that any changes in ownership would impact studios like NeatherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat) or Turtle Rock Studios (Left 4 Dead, Evolve, Back 4 Blood). Equally, it would be fair, but not certain, to assume that the WB Games offices of Boston, Montréal, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco would be included as a part of the passing of the WarnerMedia brand.
Wisely avoiding any set dates, WB Games Montréal (Gotham Knights), Avalanche Software (Hogwarts Legacy), and Rocksteady Studios (Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League) have only announced that the games will launch in 2022. Given how long Hogwarts Legacy is said to have been in development – and the fact that it was pushed back from a 2021 release window – there is a chance that the Harry Potter universe-set video game will launch before any deal is finalised by AT&T and Discovery, potentially mitigating any changes that may come for the studio thereafter.
As Hogwarts Legacy, Suicide Squad, and Gotham Knights have already been licensed, there shouldn’t be an issue if any of the studios are left at AT&T when WarnerMedia merges with Discovery. The only issue may be if AT&T decides to close any of the studios to remove themselves from the gaming industry altogether. Still, that would seem foolhardy, to say the least, given the value of the studios and the tremendous potential of the games currently in development.
When more news emerges concerning the specifics of the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger pertaining to the game studios, we’ll provide further updates. For now, there’s very little to go on, but it looks to be business as usual, at least for the foreseeable future, with the biggest potential changes likely coming post-merger should the more licence-dependent studios not follow the rest of WarnerMedia.