Disney hopes to capture some of the interactive toys-to-life market with Disney Infinity, unveiled earlier today at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California. Activision's Skylanders franchise existed almost completely unopposed last year, and raked in huge piles of cash as one of the most wanted toys during the holiday season. Disney looks to be a formidable opponent, though, and they're banking on Infinity becoming the new king of action figure gaming.
Co-President of Disney Interactive John Pleasants was on hand to introduce Infinity, discussing how the project would allow different IPs in the Disney stable to interact with one another in an open, interactive world. "Mr. Incredible does not live in the same world as Sulley and Mike. It just doesn't happen. But, if you were playing with the TOYS from those movies...that's something cool," said John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, "And so that became the theory of how we started coming up with these characters." We've seen the Skylanders portal, and Disney Infinity brings something similar to the table via a baseball-like home plate and a spot for figurines to enter the game, but then expands on it by adding two additional spots for what Disney is calling "playsets" and "power discs." Playsets are full games with objectives and gameplay in specific universes, while power discs offer special abilities and gadgets for your chosen character.
Playsets will offer gameplay confined only to characters in that universe; for example, if you're using the Monsters University playset, you'll only be able to put Mike or Sulley on the portal and bring them into the playset. That's very much like Skylanders, in that you'll have a game experience with objectives and gameplay that fits in with that playset (using the same Monsters University example, you'll be playing pranks on a rival monster college and building out a frat row for your school). Where Disney Infinity branches off from Skylanders is its "Toybox" mode.
Somewhere between Little Big Planet and Minecraft, Toybox mode is the place where every Disney IP collides. In this mode, we saw Dash from The Incredibles racing against Lightning McQueen from Cars, Jack Sparrow racing around in Cinderella's carriage, and other wacky Disney mashups. There were also building demos that showcased contextual controls, so players can create moving platformer areas, design racetracks, set fixed camera angles for visitors, and more. In a nutshell, it's a wide open sandbox for all your favorite Disney "toys" to play in together, and for you to build whatever your heart desires.
There will be all kinds of Disney franchise building blocks (and other pieces) at your disposal to make games, contraptions, or whatever else you can think up. You'll also be able to share those creations, both publicly via an online network (it will be moderated by Disney before getting shared), and with your online friends directly. There's a lot of potential here for budding designers, especially after seeing that the Minecraft community not only embraced the sandbox, but made truly incredible creations. Add in a healthy dose of Disney fondness so many families and children possess, and it's potentially a recipe for magic.
Disney Infinity will launch in June, and three IPs were announced as part of the official launch: The Incredibles, Monsters University, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Pleasants noted that there will be over 20 toys and additional IPs available at launch, but declined to comment on which ones they might be. We can say that in the promotional images, we caught characters from Wreck-It Ralph, Nightmare Before Christmas, Phineas and Ferb, Cars, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Monsters University, so for what it's worth, we'll definitely be seeing those IPs show up at some point. As for other Disney IPs, we saw power discs from Alice in Wonderland to Frankenweenie, and we're sure Disney will keep creating new and fun items to add to Infinity as new releases roll out.
If there's any company with the clout, mindshare, and franchise power to go toe-to-toe with Skylanders, it's Disney. We're also curious to see if/when Disney incorporates some of its more recent acquisitions (*ahem* Marvel and LucasFilm *ahem*) and their IPs into Infinity. There's a broad, obvious appeal to The Avengers and Star Wars playsets hitting retail shelves, and we'd bet Disney Interactive is already hard at work figuring out future integration of their biggest live-action franchises.
Disney Infinity will be coming to Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U, and PC this June.