by Joseph Arciresi
The Disney Corporation is no stranger to the world of conglomeration. In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment, the source of many graphic novels, and their film adaptations. In 2012, they acquired Lucasfilm, the production company founded by George Lucas, responsible for the Star Wars series and all it’s associated media. Now, as of 2013, Disney has increased it’s presence in the video game industry with the release of the Disney infinity franchise, which features characters across the entire spectrum of Disney acquisitions and combines them all in one platform.
A trend is starting to become apparent. Major media and producers are using their considerable assets to obtain yet more content, resulting in these ‘cross-overs’: comic book characters appearing in movies, movie characters appearing in video games, etc. All falling under the same logo, and whose revenues all flow to the same source. Disney is not the sole perpetrator of this type of globalization, but has just been the most aggressive as of late.
Pokémon is yet another media franchise that blossomed into a media giant. Starting in 1996 from Game Freak, a developing studio with less than 100 employees, Pokémon now has its own, eponymous brand management company. The Pokémon franchise now spans 39 games, an 850+ episode TV series, 17 movies and 8 TV specials, all this not to mention the numerous amounts of manga, toys, and other subsidies and distributions. All the while under the umbrella of parent company Nintendo.
This ‘rich get richer’ mentality sees the biggest content producers continuously reaping rewards from having access to funds from previous successes to fuel current projects, while fledgling content producers are disadvantaged by the pitfalls common to all new ventures. This tends to result in a fairly one-sided spectrum of media from the production giants, while most others are either snuffed out or incorporated into the gestalt.
In their article Revisiting Globalisation Through the Movie and Digital Games Industries, Kerr and Flynn make the argument against these types of heavily consolidated environments, stating “from a political economy of the media perspective the development of highly concentrated systems of symbolic production may have less positive, economic and cultural consequences for small cultures and markets.”
From ecology to the economy, the most thriving environments are always those with the most diversity. While these conglomerates will consistently produce well-funded, if not necessarily ‘good,’ content, the real danger with such globalization lies in creating an environment where new ideas are unable to thrive, or where the producers of these ideas are unwilling to create them. Ultimately, a poorer diversity of content producers will result in poorer general content, to say nothing of the inherent dangers of monopolies or oligarchies without opposition, as Kerr and Flynn mention that
recent trends whereby transnational media corporations are increasingly allowed to concentrate, assert themselves in production and distribution […] and exploit cultural goods globally may be reducing cultural diversity in certain forms of media content despite the efforts of localization teams, regulatory bodies and alternative media groups.
When multinational firms reach that size and scope, they run the risk of moving past the influence of watch groups, rule-makers, and even governments. Like juggernauts then, they can essentially do as they please, while accruing more influence and market share. It is the responsibility of the consumer to recognize the perils of large-scale globalization and make educated decisions when viewing and interacting with media and their producers.
Kerr, A., and R. Flynn. “Revisiting Globalisation Through the Movie and Digital Games Industries.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies (2003): 91-113. Print.