In case you hadn’t noticed the Walt Disney Company has amassed and created a near monopoly of characters and mega media properties which it is hoping to leverage to both bring future enjoyment to the company’s legions of fans and bring even more profitability to the mouse. The possibilities are nearly endless and one of the company’s latest endeavors, Disney Infinity, is but a teaser of that future. A future that should excite fans of Disney collectibles, toys and video games and one that will no doubt pique the interest of Disney’s shareholders as well. Imagine a sandbox game-world with infinite Disney characters ready to live inside an environment you get to build. That is Disney Infinity and Disney hopes to take you there and beyond.
The Creative Storm
Gaming can be an ultra-lucrative business but the challenges of reaching that pinnacle are not without incredible pitfalls amongst walls of adversity, just ask Disney Interactive. The latter division of the Walt Disney company posted the smallest profit numbers within the company in Q1 2013. And that is a major turn around considering they had posted a loss of $28 million in the same quarter in 2012. And it is to that backdrop that Disney Infinity plays its starring role in front of. It represents a leap forward based on previous, missteps, mistakes and downright failures that had led the division into the red and to the closure of Junction Point Studios, the developers of the Epic Mickey video game titles. Here is Disney with all their resources including the assortment of incredible brands at their disposal and yet creating a video game that completely grabbed the audience of console gamers and also provided a great fluid gameplay experience seemed almost out of reach.
Although many decisions that Disney Interactive made in order to reach profitability once again have no doubt refocused the scope of what they can and will do in the future, Disney Infinity seems to be a beautiful culmination based on a refined vision built upon reflection. In the end this is what gives it such a chance to succeed. Where previously Disney might have released a stand-alone movie-tie-in game with the incredible development costs that are tied with uncertain success now they hope to release add-ons that reduce development costs while giving gamers new content created for a game they already, Disney hopes, own. Disney Infinity changes the business model for console gaming at Disney Interactive and it may be the silver bullet that saves it. Of course if that were the end of the story than Infinity wouldn’t be infinite now would it?
Toy Play Sets That Come Alive
For John Lasseter, Toy Story was but a reflection of his youth spent playing and using his exuberant imagination to bring his toys to life. And now Lasseter and the team at Disney Interactive working on Disney Infinity are out to make sure Toy Story isn’t the last Disney venture that dreams of giving life to the toys we play with. In fact, the smart vinyl toy figurine collections that make up the Disney Infinity “Play Sets” are a large part of the secret sauce in the Disney Infinity formula. The initial Play Sets include Monster’s University, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles with the notable characters you’d expect, Sulley, Captain Jack Sparrow and of course Mr. Incredible. They are well designed pieces that are bound to be collector’s items onto themselves and attract even those who wouldn’t normally consider playing video games. The real “magic” though occurs when you place the figurines upon the “Disney Infinity Base” and the characters come to life in virtual form on your television screen. Some will surely see this as unnecessary and a bit pricey to boot and Disney will have to market this well but there is something to be said for the distinctiveness and simple fun it brings to the overall gaming experience. But that gaming experience only begins with the Play Sets and what comes next is truly what gives this game a real opportunity to live up to its name.
Though technology continues to reshape our lives evermore rapidly we often long for the comforts and joys of days past. That is why so often the brands, technologies and products that both create something new while paying homage to our shared history, find the most success. And for Lasseter and many of us when we were young there was nothing better than the creativity inspired, fun-filled adventures we created with our favorite toys. Those mash-ups felt greater than their parts and they were, because our toys became more than themselves. They were our visions, dreams and hopes all during a state that we describe as play. This sandbox environment of the past might have found a new virtual home in Disney Infinity and this June Disney will invite you to play.
After having completed the story-driven gameplay of the Disney Infinity Play Sets, you will have collected virtual toys throughout your various challenges. Those toys are then sent to the Disney Infinity “Toy Box” where you will be able to use them to create a Disney themed world with few limitations. Toy Box enables you to design adventures that span the various Play Set franchises and use your favorite Disney characters together for the first time. Best of all is that you will be able to share in the fun with four other players who get to be in the environment you have built. But with Infinity in the title, you know there is still more.
The Future of Disney Infinity
Disney Interactive is promoting Disney Infinity as “Disney’s most ambitious video game initiative ever,” and with all the hints towards the grandeur of the company’s plans for its future it’s not hard to see why. Future expansions are already in the works as evidenced by the recently announced Cars Play Set. For gamers this means more and more story-driven worlds to play within Disney Infinity at a far more steady and consistent pace. After all Disney Infinity strives to be much more than just a simple game and rather it hopes to become a platform for all of Disney’s latest and greatest gaming initiatives. Finally the company with a near monopoly of media properties, brands and characters has a gaming strategy that seems equally as powerful. And the confidence they exude when they tease the potential of Disney Infinity is quite obvious. You would be confident too if you held so many amazing stories to tell and characters to market. After all, can you imagine Mickey and the gang in the Disney Infinity universe? Beyond indeed!