Entertainment juggernaut Disney yesterday made the surprise announcement that they will be ceasing production of the popular toys-to-life game series Disney Infinity, and, as a consequence, will no longer be developing games based on their properties.
This comes as an unexpected move to many, especially since Infinity, which has now seen three iterations dealing with classic Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars icons respectively, has been a prime contender in the market alongside competitors like LEGO Dimensions, Skylanders and Nintendo’s own Amiibo figures.
Each game is essentially a platforming sandbox in which players can scan in real-world collectable figurines of characters to use them in game. Special accessories, such as ‘Power Discs’ (distributed in blind bags) grant additional abilities.
Properties represented range from Lucasfilm IPs and the Avengers to the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and, more recently, Zootopia and Finding Nemo. One of the series’ key selling points has always been the potential for bizarre crossovers; for instance, Nick Wilde exchanging witty banter with Han Solo or Woody commenting on Star-Lord’s fashion sense.
Speaking on the sudden decision, Disney Interactive general manager John Blackburn consoled fans, stating that “our goal for Disney Infinity was to bring the best of Disney storytelling to life in homes around the world, and with your support we accomplished that. We hope you had as much fun playing the game as we had making it.”
While Disney is largely citing shifts in its marketing stratagem as justification for the closure, the numbers tell a different story. Financial reports from the most recent fiscal year suggest that the company missed Infinity sales projections by as much as eight per cent; this, combined with the alleged $147m charge submitted by its gaming division to facilitate the cancellation, spells some heavy losses for all involved.
As part of the announcement, it was additionally disclosed that over 300 employees have been laid off as Avalanche Software, the developer responsible for the series, has been shuttered. The studio, aside from its work with Disney, has also produced entries in the Dragon Ball and Mortal Kombat franchises.
The whole affair is eerily reminiscent of the 2013 closure of Junction Point Studios following the poor sales of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two; a decision which, ironically, was made to allow greater focus on the development of Infinity’s first instalment.
Indeed, Bob Iger, Disney CEO, seems to note this similarity in a sales report: “We did quite well with the first iteration of it, and we did OK with the second iteration. But that business is a changing business, and we did not have enough confidence in the business in terms of it being stable enough to stay in it from a self-publishing perspective.”
Following on from this, the company has also revealed it will no longer be developing movie tie-in titles in-house, and will instead be licensing the rights to do this out to third parties (as they have done with EA and the Star Wars series).
The collapse of Disney Infinity, while out of left field, does cast into harsh light the struggles faced by developers producing games for the toys-to-life genre; although Activision, pioneers of the Skylanders franchise, are doubtlessly pleased by the series’ demise.
The impact this news will have on the future of other rivals – LEGO, Amiibo et al – remains to be seen.
Did you play Disney Infinity? Are you disappointed by the closure? Sound off in the comments below.