Disney Putting All Their Eggs into the Infinity Basket?
Last month, Avalanche Software and Disney set the release date for their new Disney Infinity game for August. Primarily this was to allow time to add elements from the Star Wars universe into the already massive game world set.
The concept of Disney Infinity is to play inside the various 'worlds' based on their vast library of films, cartoons and TV series incorporating characters from those unique universes by purchasing figurines and power discs.
Figurines would be sold separately or sold in sets and each character would have their own abilities and powers, etc.
The Skylanders the Limit
Obviously, this play model has already been done before with Activision's Skylanders game and figures. And that game garnered much success.
This concept of combining a video game, action figures and collectible upgrades is something that seems to appeal to Disney's target age groups.
When the Mouse gets behind a project, they really get behind a project. Infinity's development to date is estimated at $100 million and so far taken nearly three years to put together.
But with their classic cartoon characters, recent movie franchises (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lone Ranger, Wreck-It-Ralph) and the complete PIXAR library (Cars, The Incredibles, Toy Story) at their disposal and new characters being developed all the time, the potential is high for Infinity to a money printer.
However, how far is Disney going for just this one title?
Cleaning Out the Mouse House
The Disney Interactive Media Group had been struggling for some time to get above water, let alone stay above it. Numerous console games did not meet expectations and their Virtual World games (Pirates Online, Pixie Hollow, and World of Cars) suffered huge drop-offs in membership, resulting in the latter being closed completely. Only Club Penguin maintains a strong, regular income. However, part of the MMORPG shift was across the border on nearly all RPGs, except those that changed their pay system or had a hugely loyal fan base.
Still, the writing was on the wall that their priorities needed to change.
In short order over the past few years, Disney has shut down or eliminated several game divisions.
- Propaganda Games, makers of TRON: Evolution was in the middle of developing Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned (a Pirates take on Fable) when the company closed up.
- Black Rock Studios, the makers of racing games Pure and Split/Second, closed in 2011.
- Fall Line Studios merged into Avalanche back in 2009.
- And just this year, Junction Point Studios, the creators of Epic Mickey and Epic Mickey 2, closed their doors.
- Add to the list LucasArts. The gaming innovator and home to the Star Wars franchises is now being boarded up. Their library is being disseminated or distributed to licensers.
All of this meant to drop the bulk of the company's costs by ending nearly all in-house development and production and instead farm out their products to other firms to create their games. On paper, this strategy has so far worked.
For the first time in many years, DIMG showed a profit.
The 900 Pound Mouse in the Room
After laying off hundreds of workers, closing dozens of locations, ending years of reputable game design, Disney's streamlining efforts have narrowed their focus as well as expenses to mostly social and mobile.
Wideload is currently developing their mobile Avengers: Initiative game, while recently acquired Chinese company GameStar's role has not been so clear defined by specific game titles. GameStar had worked with WildTangent in the past, so likely they will continue to create mobile content.
Disney Online Studios Canada (formerly New Horizon) will continue to service money-maker Club Penguin as well as provide support for the remaining Virtual World RPGs.
Any other titles will likely be licensed to other companies to reduce risk and costs. That leaves the Lion King's share of DIMG's capital for Avalanche's Disney Infinity.
With such a large investment of money, time, people and product in this one title, Disney has put all their chips on the table and the wheel will be spun in August.
Steps Ahead, Steps Behind
Whether the concept of combining toys and video games is innovative or not, Disney has definitely taken it to the next level with their various Playset Mode worlds and the Toy Box mode which allows characters from the various universes to play together.
And one can see the attractiveness of selling a physical, tangible object like a collectible action figure to enhance a gaming experience as well put more money in the bank, but will it be a case of 'been there, done that' after Skylanders?
Also, there's been no word yet about Xbox One or PS4 versions of the game as of this date. Really? The two biggest new boys on the block? And if so, would that set the release date back even farther? They really can't push it back again if they want product on the shelves as Fall approaches with Christmas shopping not far behind.
The Disney game basket has one big Infinity egg in it. It needs to hatch some gold and soon. The longer it sits, the more likely it will start to spoil.