Disney Interactive has never been a power player in the video game industry. They've given us a few interesting titles, like Epic Mickey and Kingdom Hearts, but the they’ve always kind of existed in the shadows - partially because they’ve never been particularly profitable. However, all of that may have just changed.
For the last few months, journalists had been hearing murmurs of a big project, called Infinity, coming out of Disney Interactive. No one really knew any of the specifics, but Disney was obviously pouring their resources into the project, so our interest was piqued. Well, Disney finally let us look behind the curtain, and what we saw was impressive.
Now, before you accuse Infinity of ripping off Skylanders, which it totally is, you need to understand that Disney is actually doing something that's far more impressive.
Part of the reason that Activision has been so successful with the Skylanders franchise is because it was built on an already existing property, Spyro. Obviously, Skylanders has far surpassed Spyro's success, but launching it as a spinoff gave Skylanders a bit of forward momentum right out of the gate.
And this is what Disney is doing with Infinity, except instead of creating a spinoff franchise, they're combining every popular franchise that they can think of into one gargantuan game. So, it's essentially taking Activision's strategy and multiplying it times Infinity.
See what I did there?
But Disney franchises aren't the only thing being crisscrossed in Infinity. Probably the most ambitious part of this title is its cross-platform compatibility. Because each character's progress is stored in a Skylander-like figurine, gamers will be able to play the title on any platform at any time. We know that Infinity is heading to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PC, but it will reportedly find its way to several tablets and smartphones as well.
Initially, Disney is planning to release 40 "collectible interactive pieces," but when John Pleasants, Co-President of Disney Interactive, was introducing the title at the Hollywood El Capitan theater yesterday, he explained that this is only the beginning. “Disney Infinity is a platform that will grow and diversify," Pleasants said. "It will be global and live across all platforms: Console, mobile, and online.”
When the title is released in June, it will include three separate playsets. Each playset is a lot like it's very own standalone title. They come with their own figurines, which translate into playable characters, and follow their own original story lines. Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Incredibles are the lucky launch titles, but I've already seen characters from Toy Story, Nightmare Before Christmas, Phineas and Ferb and Cars sprinkled in.
Throughout their entire presentation, Disney representatives constantly referred to the game as a toybox. “It’s like Andy [from Toy Story]," said John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar, "he’s got this toy box full of toys and they all come together to play in a very creative way.” If we set aside the fact that snappy marketing terms annoy me, this one is fairly apt. The fact that I can play as Jack Sparrow inside of The Incredibles' playset makes Infinity particularly interesting. The game allows players to continue using their favorite characters long after they've polished off their specific storyline.
This approach to video game development practically puts Infinity into its very own genre. Parents have long accused video games as cultivating uninmagitive interaction, but Infinity solves the problem by allowing kids to interact however they'd like. And this is compounded by the fact that players will be able to create their very own custom playsets. I'd imagine that creating a new world in Infinity comes with fewer trips to the emergency room than the time I created a batcave out of 2x4s and a nail gun (true story).
So, obviously Infinity is more than just a Disney version of Skylanders, but we're only starting to scratch the surface. Disney hasn't yet revealed the dynamics of Infinity's cross-platform play, or which playsets are heading to the platform in 2013. But the little information that we do have is enough to get me excited. Plus, the fact that Disney has access to Marvel's character library and the Star Wars universe makes me embarrassingly enthusiastic.
Date: January 16, 2013
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*