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Disney In Depth: ‘Disney Infinity,’ Beyond The Traditional Video Game
Brett Nachman   |  @   |  

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Ready, set, game time! The announcement of Disney Infinity, a revolutionary title, has launched Disney Interactive in a positive direction, one that may bolster its presence in the video gaming arena. This Disney In Depth will explore the future of this innovative game, a massive endeavor that may reinvent the wheel.

Speculation behind the supposed secrecy of Disney Infinity kept bloggers and sites buzzing for months prior to the official Jan. 15 presentation. The announcement, held in Los Angeles and co-presented by John Lasseter, drew fanboys into a frenzy with excitement and anticipation. Gaming sites especially picked up this news. But you may be wondering what Disney Infinity is, and even more importantly, how this factors into the Disney machine. Let me expand.

Disney Infinity models the action figure-inspired structure of the popular Skylanders series, which has earned a cool $500 million, but takes that idea to another level. Rather, multiple levels. The main Disney Infinity starter park, which at launch will feature “play sets” for Monsters University, The Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean, will allow gamers to explore the worlds of those characters. The starter pack features toy figures of Jack Sparrow, Mr. Incredible, and Sully with a base that “reads” those characters and pulls them into the game via NFC technology. What makes Disney Infinity distinct is not necessarily that it draws from some of the company’s most popular icons and uses toys, but rather how it integrates these characters.

Imagine Syndrome riding Dumbo the Flying Elephant. How about Buzz Lightyear “surfing” with Stitch? Those possibilities are realistic in this platform, almost Avengers-like in how Disney favorites team up, battle enemies and embark on adventures. Disney Infinity‘s “toy box” mode reflects the idea of integrating characters to gamers’ content, and accordingly to how much they can spend on products. Family Gamer TV explores some of the costs in the video below.

You see, Disney Infinity is not just one solid title that may eventually collect dust on an entertainment unit. This game serves as a constantly-evolving world, with new merchandise being released to shape the future of this brand. The starter pack with those aforementioned three hero figures and base to place them on equates to $74.99. Not too pricey whatsoever. Yet individual figures will cost $12.99 in the United States, whereas packs of three will cost $29.99. Additionally, power discs, which can enhance character abilities, will require you to pay $4.99. Did I even mention that “play sets,” essentially extra worlds, cost $34.99 each? An effective merchandising plan, yes. A perfect way to get parents to use their credit cards more often than they would like, absolutely.

Extremely strategic and addicting. Who would not want to purchase a Captain Barbossa figure to accompany Jack Sparrow, and add a few power discs too? It only makes sense to continually expand your Disney Infinity merchandise spectrum. This platform, created by Avalanche Software, will no doubt be a game-changer in how video games are marketed to children, families, and perhaps even adults who have always yearned for an experience like this. As ambitious and ingenious as this plan is, one must only wonder if this could backfire on them big time.

Disney Interactive has little to lose at this point. They have significantly suffered in recent years, as I suggested in a recent Disney In Depth piece, and this is most exactly what I felt they should do. Take a risk. Sure, investing company resources and time into this game proves dicey, but often the greatest rewards come from big gambles. They know this plan makes sense, and to some extent, the public must know it does as well. John Lasseter embraces gaming, as evidenced in the GamerHubTV video below. Many video games earn as much, if not more, than Hollywood blockbusters. Disney Interactive has yet to stir media attention like this since the days of the original Kingdom Hearts, and I think it is earning legitimate optimism. And concern.

I think some gamers will experience sticker shock when they see how much it costs to expand the game. On the other hand, many games possess add-ons and they have survived okay. I believe what makes some cautious about Disney Infinity is how it appears so extensive. Releasing certain figures and play sets in phases make as much fiscal sense as it does consumer sense. I just have to wonder how many parents will load up on these accessories, despite pleas from their children to purchase the latest figure.

If you view it as almost like a “mini video game console,” with each figure or play set representing another game, then the cost may be no concern. But expensive is expensive. I think some will settle with just the main starter pack, but those who welcome what it symbolizes will want most everything available to them.

Disney Infinity may be for Disney video game merchandising as what Disney pin trading and Vinylmation have been for Disney theme park merchandising. As Lasseter and others have promoted, consumers can trade figures and power discs. That patterns how many swap pins and Vinyl figures, a proven method that has gained intense followings and likely earned Disney exorbitant profits.

I am energized by what Disney Infinity could mean for the entire company. It serves as a perfect stage to allow consumers to appreciate characters in new and exciting ways. Lasseter said it will encourage creativity, and based on what this platform supports, customization and originality will be at users’ fingertips. Even cooler, the game will extend online, permitting users to access others’ worlds. Smart move. Tyler Winegarner of GameSpot captures an overview of the game in the video below.

I would like to wholeheartedly embrace Disney Infinity, and feel confident by what I have seen thus far. But like everyone else, I must wait and see how consumers respond. In any case, Disney has ventured into territory that will likely serve it well, at least in demonstrating to the world that they could be a key player in the video game universe. Disney’s characters are enduring. The potential of Infinity, like the definition of the word, is unlimited.

What are your thoughts on Disney Infinity? Comment and share your opinions below.

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Return back to Disney In Depth Thursdays on Geeks of Doom for more Disney fun, and be sure to follow me on Twitter for Disney news and alerts of upcoming editions of the column. Have a good week!

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