LOS ANGELES — The highly publicized video game Epic Mickey, which showcases the Walt Disney Company’s central character in an unusually dark manner, had a solid but not spectacular debut in stores — a likely reflection, analysts said, of a release strategy that missed important retail opportunities. Backed by a megawatt marketing campaign, the largest in Disney history for a video game, Epic Mickey sold 1.3 million units in North America in December for a retail total of $64.2 million, according to NPD Group. That result made Disney’s game the fifth best-selling console title leading up to Christmas. The top-selling release in December was Call of Duty: Black Ops, which sold 3.6 million units worth $193 million for Activision Blizzard.
Disney says it is thrilled with the results for Epic Mickey, a game six years in the making. A spokeswoman for Disney Interactive Studios noted that the game, in which Mickey Mouse traverses a forbidding cartoon wasteland, was the fastest-selling single-platform game in the company’s history.
Furthermore, of the five top-selling console games in December, Epic Mickey was the only one that was not a sequel. The spokeswoman also noted that worldwide sales, which NPD does not track, have been doing well. On a global basis, Epic Mickey could sell over four million units, according to Doug Creutz, an analyst at Cowen & Company.
That is the glass-half-full analysis. Viewed from other angles, Disney almost certainly left money on the table with its unusual Epic Mickey introduction, according to analysts. Disney released the game on Nov. 30, missing the all-important post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend. It was originally set to miss Christmas entirely until senior Disney executives stepped in and sped things up.
Managers at Disney Interactive Studios also made the decision to limit the release of Epic Mickey to the Nintendo Wii, a console that has slumped in popularity since that decision was made. Disney decided to skip systems like the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 in part because the Wii was proving more popular with families; the Wii controls are also suited to the game’s narrative, which involves splashing paint and thinner.
Epic Mickey came along as Disney began to overhaul its approach to gaming, placing less emphasis on expensive console titles and more on social games played over the Internet. In July Disney spent $563.2 million to acquire Playdom, at the time the No. 3 social game company on Facebook, with 42 million monthly players.
Senior managers have paraded out the door recently, resigning or being fired from Disney’s digital media division as the company has tried to place it on stronger footing. Those leaving include Steve Wadsworth, the unit’s former president, and Graham Hopper, an executive vice president who shepherded Epic Mickey. Courtney Simmons, who led public relations for the division, was pushed out on Monday.