Disney Infinity, a new toy figure-video game crossover by Disney Interactive, was announced back in January. The ambitious project will be released sometime in June 2013. The toy-game hybrid will feature figurines of favorite Disney characters, character upgrade tokens for bestowing special abilities on a character, and play set tokens that will allow access to a particular world. Starter packs will have all of the basic components. Players will assemble everything on a base that hooks up to their gaming device of choice, whether it be a console, Nintendo 3DS, or a Windows computer. Sound familiar? It should. Disney Infinity happens to closely resemble Skylanders’ revolutionary model. Skylanders, a Spyro-themed toy-game hybrid series by Activision, has topped $1 billion in global retail sales in just 15 months. Combining the Disney brand and its intellectual properties with the now lucrative toy figure-video game model sounds like a fantastic–and quite profitable–idea. Though Disney is bringing some unique qualities to Disney Infinity, is it too little, too late in a market already dominated by Skylanders?
As cool as a sandbox mode might be, there are definitely some concerns about Disney Infinity. Disney doesn’t have the best track record with video games. Title after title has been usually ignored or panned by critics, and most gamers did not embrace them either. Recent examples include the mediocre Brave and Disney Universe. Will Disney Infinity distance itself from past failures and put Disney’s video games on the map? It’s possible, but unlikely. Kids might be attracted to the game nonetheless, but in order to achieve broad success, the game might have to be higher quality and catch the eye of adults.
Skylanders has another leg up on Disney Infinity; its toy figurines are different, and so is their target customer. Skylanders toys appear to have more detail. They are unique from anything else one might find at the toy store. There isn’t a wide selection of Spyro toys. Disney’s, on the other hand, aren’t particularly detailed, cute, or cool-looking. Disney makes all sorts of toys that appear very similar. Also, Skylanders, with a collection of toys that include a dragon, a hammer-toting golem, and a mean-looking wasp creature, appear tougher. The game skews male. Disney, on the other hand, has an audience that is slightly younger and more female. Historically, action figures and video games have always been associated with boys. It might be more of an uphill battle for Disney Infinity to hook gamers at larger and even their assumed demographic.
Most importantly, Disney Infinity is entering the toy-game ring when Skylanders already rules supreme. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure was released way back in Oct 2011. Skylanders: Giants has been out for half a year. Toy trends tend to come and go very quickly. Kids easily move onto the next fad. It’s possible that the gig will already be up by the time summer rolls around. However, Skylanders has proven to be reliably successful during the duration of its existence. Even if the fascination doesn’t cool down, Infinity will have to face stiff competition. Skylanders has another new game, Skylanders: Swap Force, dropping this holiday season. Disney Infinity is a risky venture based on some great money-conscious logic, but it is certainly going to face a difficult road; it’s unlikely that Mickey will outperform Spyro in this case.