Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Disney Unveils 'Skylanders'-like Franchise "Disney Infinity"


Captain Jack Sparrow driving Cinderella's carriage? Mr. Incredible swinging the Queen of Hearts' flamingo mallet? Sulley from "Monsters, Inc." galloping around on Bullseye from "Toy Story"? Those are just a few of the silly scenarios that could become a virtual reality with "Disney Infinity," a new endeavor from Disney combining a video game with a toy line.

The Walt Disney Co. revealed plans Tuesday to launch what it's billing as a new gaming platform that's strikingly similar to Activision's successful "Skylanders" franchise.


"Infinity" will blend real-life toy figures depicting various Disney personalities with a sprawling virtual world where those same characters can do stuff like race cars, play games and construct buildings together, as well as go on adventures in their own realms.

"We wanted to make it so that we could have lots of characters from lots of stories we create at Pixar and Disney come together in one place," Disney-Pixar animation chief John Lasseter said at the Tuesday unveiling of "Infinity" at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre.


"Infinity" will be available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DC, PC, online and on tablets and smartphones. It's being crafted by Disney-owned developer Avalanche Software, which created the 2010 game based on "Toy Story 3." That game's "toy box" mode served as inspiration for what eventually became "Infinity."

Akin to "Skylanders," the plastic figures have the ability to store data and transmit characters' histories through a reader. Also like "Skylanders," the toys can work between consoles, meaning a Mr. Incredible figure can seamlessly go from a PS3 in your living room to the Wii in your friend's basement.


The game is essentially divided into two modes: "play sets," featuring structured adventures where gamers can collect vehicles, scenery, gadgets and more; and the "toy box," an unstructured open world where users' imaginations can run wild, much like the games "Minecraft" and "LittleBigPlanet." Both modes allow for gamers to play cooperatively or online together.

"What's staggering about this is not what's happening right now but the potential of what's gonna happen when it gets out there in the hands of kids, adults and creative people just getting lost in there creating stuff," said Lasseter. "We can't even imagine it right now."

A starter pack for "Infinity" will include the game, reader, play set piece and three figures: Sulley of "Monsters University," Captain Jack Sparrow of "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Mr. Incredible of "The Incredibles." Pleasants said the starter pack will cost $74.99, the same price as the "Skylanders: Giants" starter pack released last year.

"Infinity" will initially launch with 17 figures ($12.99 a piece, or $29.99 for a three-pack) and 20 power discs ($4.99 a pack).

The power discs can be placed on the reader to provide new items and power-ups. For example, slipping the disc for Fix-It Felix Jr.'s hammer from "Wreck-It Ralph" underneath Davy Jones from "Pirates of the Caribbean" will raise the captain's ability to deal damage.

Disney sees "Infinity" as a long-term platform with a plan to release new figures, play sets and power discs over the next several years.

"Within 'Infinity,' we will leverage Disney characters from the past, present and future — and we will continue to do so in the future," said Pleasants.

Disney is clearly taking a cue from Activision with "Infinity," injecting the toys-meets-games genre with its own characters and locales — and perhaps smartly so. Activision Blizzard Inc. revealed last week that its "Skylanders" franchise crossed the $500 million mark in U.S. retail sales, outselling top action figure lines from franchises such as the WWE and "Star Wars."

Pleasants noted that "Infinity" is driving past the innovations that Activision originally made when it launched the genre with "Skylanders" in 2011. He said that unlike "Skylanders," ''Infinity" will boast several different styles of gameplay. The play set for "The Incredibles," for example, is more focused on action than the one for "Monsters University," where stealthiness is the name of the game.

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