Infinity is apparently far from limitless. The death of the Disney Infinity video game series marks the end of a (short) era that appeared destined for fiscal success. Disney Interactive Studios has long struggled in developing original games that appeal to mass audiences and turn a profit.
Now, with the demise of Disney Infinity, it looks like efforts to carve out a piece of this seemingly lucrative market have been moot. Disney Interactive Studios will no longer self-publish games, instead licensing their properties to third parties. Infinity‘s discontinuation after a mere three years of existence is a sad conclusion to a franchise that reached for the stars, but could not make it.
The announcement of Disney Infinity, a mass new venture for Disney Interactive, back in early 2013 struck the gaming industry as a major revolution. While Skylanders had created a new market with the toys-to-life idea several years prior, no significant brand had aimed to disrupt the system. While Lego Dimensions and Nintendo’s amiibo have made a decent impact since Disney Infinity‘s August 2013 launch, Disney is arguably a more substantial universe.
Costing more than $100 million to develop, Infinity started on a super, screaming, and swashbuckling start with Mr. Incredible, Sulley, and Jack Sparrow as the three iconic and principal characters. Despite its price tag, more costly than the typical video game, the idea of users to form their own Disney worlds with infinite possibilities could not have been more appealing. Taking the worlds of The Incredibles, Monsters University, and Pirates of the Caribbean as the launching pad – soon followed by Cars, Toy Story, Frozen, and even box office blunder The Lone Ranger, along with others – the game set up a new platform of experimenting with familiar characters. Imagine designing a race track for Mater or constructing an intergalactic environment for Buzz Lightyear. No longer wonder. Just do it. Disney Infinity gave gamers the chance to achieve these ideals and so much more.
Early sales suggested the game would transform the industry, at least in making the toys-to-life market more prominent. In just a matter of months, more than one million units had been sold. The innovative Toy Box Mode, allowing games to craft their own unique games and unlocking tools and items along the way, expanded the reach of Disney Infinity from its designated younger players to adults. Entire Toy Box competitions emerged via the Toy Box Summit, as did a slew of videos on YouTube where users shared their creations with the world. New characters popped up every few months for purchase, from Wreck-It Ralph to Rapunzel. Though I’m sure parents cringed at the idea of spending at least $10 every time a new character was released, collectors yearned to purchase them all, in addition to snagging the dozens of discs.
With the advent of Disney Infinity 2.0, featuring Marvel personalities to the fullest extent, it was clear that the game could utilize its acquisitions to support its bottom line. Considering that many gamers also enjoy superheroes, this seemed like a victory. Alas, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes was plagued by more mediocre reviews due to awkward gameplay and controls, as well as bland storylines. But that did not stop incredible sales figures, especially of select figures, such as Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney had now showcased its traditional properties, Pixar, and Marvel. Even the Muppets had some role through the incorporation of famous vehicles. But the game had not ventured to a galaxy far, far away yet. Nobody would question where Disney Infinity 3.0 would head.
Star Wars seemed only fitting for the second sequel. The third time’s the charm, right? Classic protagonists and villains united, with Luke Skywalker not too far behind Darth Vader. The reviews for the third edition, which refined many of the bugs and limitations of the prior game, were quite favorable. More sophisticated combat increased many gamers’ enjoyment. I can attest to that.
The most disappointing element of Disney Infinity‘s ending is the loss of hundreds of individuals’ jobs. No cancellation happens without consequence. Disney will also see a major financial loss on this venture of around $150 million. Stock dropped from more than $105 a share the day before this announcement, to close to $102 the day after. Mind you, that also coincided with the release of Disney’s Q2 earnings, but the association is clear. Additionally upsetting is that cool plans envisioned for Disney Infinity 4.0 will not materialize. Some of these efforts would have included enhanced 12-inch figures and playsets based on upcoming franchises like Moana and Rogue One.
Disney Infinity 3.0‘s final offerings are almost symbolic, considering the subject matter of the films. Figures based on Alice Through the Looking Glass and Finding Dory shall debut over the coming weeks. Alice and Dory are both relatable and pivotal protagonists who get lost in enchanting new atmospheres amid incredible journeys of self-discovery. Likewise, the minds behind the game wandered down wondrous paths in creating a miraculous game that took players on an incredible ride that they could fashion on their own.
Perhaps Disney Interactive Studios put all of its eggs in one basket, as it was the epicenter of the division for the past few years and promised to be that way for years to come. Unfortunately, those objectives could only be attained for so long and, in a volatile market like gaming, trends are not always sustainable. Disney Infinity will continue to find new gamers for years, as the idea of “what’s old is new again” is cyclical. People return to familiar properties and products. Perhaps it could be reinvented in a decade or so, or perhaps this game will serve as the foundation of a future gaming experience even more gargantuan in scale. All we can say is that this game will remain forever in our hearts and, for some, nearby their game consoles for infinity and beyond.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, released on the first and third Thursdays of each month on Geeks of Doom.