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Disney joins Microsoft and Snapchat as latest big-name company to slink away from metaverse ambitions

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek (left)
The Disney metaverse-focused division was launched under former Disney CEO Bob Chapek (left). It was shuttered following a round of layoffs under current CEO Bob Iger.
Gerardo Mora—Getty Images

The Walt Disney Company’s once-grand plans for the metaverse have been quietly shelved, and the media and entertainment giant has joined other big companies in laying off employees dedicated to the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The around-50-person next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences division was created under former CEO Bob Chapek, who once described the metaverse as “the next great storytelling frontier,” according to the Journal. All of the team’s employees were laid off in the company’s most recent round of layoffs—the first of three waves in which 7,000 total are expected—sources told the Journal.

Disney’s move away from the nascent metaverse, a series of virtual worlds where users can play games, shop, and talk to friends, comes as several big-name firms have put plans for the technology on the back burner in the face of increased scrutiny on cryptocurrencies and the buzz around artificial intelligence.

In February, Microsoft laid off 100 employees from what it dubbed a metaverse industrial core team just four months after it was formed. Asia’s biggest internet company, Tencent, also reportedly disbanded a 300-person “extended reality” unit in February. Social media company Snapchat eliminated its Web3 team last year.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the company is still dedicated to building the metaverse—after plowing tens of billions of dollars into the effort—yet in a note announcing layoffs earlier this month, Zuckerberg focused more on A.I.

The only employee not axed when Disney shut down the metaverse-focused team was Michael White, a former Disney consumer products executive tapped by Chapek to lead the unit last year. White’s future role is unclear.

The dissolved metaverse unit had been tasked with telling interactive stories using the company’s intellectual property with new technology. A year after Disney launched the team, its direction was still hazy, although the company once implied that the metaverse could have applications for fantasy sports, theme park attractions, and other consumer experiences, the Journal reported.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fortune.

Current CEO Bob Iger has supported the metaverse. The chief executive, in his second stint at Disney, invested in and joined the board of Genies, which allows users to create their own digital avatars and avatar fashion, among other things.

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