Thursday, January 17, 2013

Disney Infinity: A Revealing Interview with John Pleasants of Disney Interactive

                                     John Pleasants, Co-President of Disney Interactive

JE: So have we seen everything Disney Infinity ships with at launch?

JP: No, that’s not it. We showed what we call a Starter Pack play set, and that’s $74.99. It’ll come with software for the full game, the reader, and those three toys [Jack Sparrow, Mr. Incredible, Sully]. But there are more toys available in additional packs, there are unlocks available, there are coins available, and there are additional play sets, so you’ll have more IP.

JE: I have to assume some of this is content locked away on the disc, correct?

JP: Yes, there is some content locked on the disc. We’ll keep updating the game too. We want this to seriously be a game that is console, online, mobile. And it will phase in a little bit over time. Day 1, online will look a lot like console, and the mobile will be a little different – but mobile is going to have these experiences on it. I come from a social gaming company, that’s my background. These have to be live services, right? You’re changing these games in real time. That’s how mobile games make money: microtransactions. But some of the stuff has to be free to play. As you think out over the course of a couple years, if this platform is going to be as successful as I want it to be, we’re going to have to push into those uncomfortable yet exciting business models.”

JE: During the presentation, we saw a player’s rendition of Bowser’s Castle from Mario Kart, with the playable characters using their respective mounts and vehicles to race. Do you have any concerns about copyright issues with user-generated content?

JP: The user-generated content that can come out of [Disney Infinity] is exciting – we get to turn around and release that stuff to the community. We really respect people’s IP, and Disney has a great track record of that. We have a lot of lawyers making sure we do things the correct way!

JE: I think Wreck-It Ralph is perfect evidence of that…Switching gears now, I saw a fundamental shift at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show toward this concept of platform-agnosticism. Everyone is gaming across multiple devices. We have cross-platform headphones, Android controllers, things like that. How persistent will Disney Infinity be across all these platforms?

JP: At launch these aren’t going to be persistent, but they are going to be connected. The toys themselves – generation one, these toys are a big anchor – the toys have codes. These codes unlock unique value across all platforms.” [Pleasants clarified that yes, a single toy will unlock content unique to the platform you're playing the game on.]

JE: So when I buy a $4.99 figurine, what is that adding to my existing experience?

JP: That figurine will unlock that character in the game, that respective property in the game itself. And that character brings with it an adventure or series of adventures they go on inside the world. They also bring their own gadgets and items into the Toy Box.

JE: John, there’s obviously one burning question on everyone’s mind in light of Disney’s recent acquisition of LucasFilm Ltd: Disney owns many properties, specifically the Marvel universe and Star Wars. Do you want to see these introduced into Disney Infinity?

JP: Done well, this is a great platform for any brand and series of IPs and characters. Yes, it’s crossed our minds but we haven’t announced anything. We’re very focused on this right now, but it’s a logical thing to think about. Just bringing the Disney/Pixar stuff together was tricky and interesting. Marvel’s a bit different, especially with their multiple universes. It needs to be thought through.”

JE: Essentially we’re looking at 3 different games – at least based on what you’ve revealed so far – inside a single SKU. How much time do you think players can invest in just the story-based elements of Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Incredibles?

JP: You’ll have more than a full console experience. Dozens and dozens and dozens of hours throughout all the play sets, not including the Toy Box aspect.

JE: There’s a huge opportunity for Disney to seed this initiative across their cruises, global theme parks, Radio Disney, ABC…It would be neat to visit Epcot, for example, and pick up a version of Captain Jack Sparrow unique to that location, especially if he unlocked very unique content. Is that something you’re entertaining?

JP: Yes. One thing that gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility is the power discs. Those change environments, capabilities, characters. [Disney Infinity] is intended to be a platform that can leverage that synergy. I want to be honest here: We haven’t done anything yet. Once it gets out there and it’s an awesome experience on all platforms, gets good adoption across all the channels…we’ll leverage that. We’ve got a trick up our sleeve with regards to the parks, but I’m not allowed to talk about that just yet…

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