The world of Disney Infinity came crashing into stores late this summer after years of concept development, research, testing,and brilliant marketing both at high profile events and through social media. It is no surprise that Infinity has become Disney Interactive’s most successful franchise to date. Now that the game has been out for several months now, one would imagine sales to have dropped a bit, but that is not the case. Instead, sales are higher than ever and expected to continue through this year. Infinity fans are being born everyday and that is exactly why it’s time for an update. There’s much to talk about including news of what’s happening, rumors of what’s coming, and a discussion of what’s next for the franchise…and yes, the possibilities are endless.
Disney Infinity is a new game universe where “a spark of imagination” unlocks a fantasy world filled with characters from Walt Disney and Pixar films. For the first time in a Disney game, players place real-world interactive figures including characters, Power Discs, and Play Set pieces on a device called the “Disney Infinity Base” which activates story-driven adventures in various worlds related to some of the most popular franchises including Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, and Toy Story.
In each game world, known as a “Play Set,” gamers take on the role of a variety of characters to solve challenging puzzles, complete quests, battle enemies, and overcome numerous obstacles. Along the way, vehicles, gadgets, and other items are collected for use in a virtual “Toy Box,” a special place that players can create their own Disney adventures featuring any combination of characters and environments. Want to see Captain Jack in battle with Buzz Lightyear? Sulley soar above Cinderella Castle on a Dumbo ride? Lightning McQueen race Woody on the track? Players can do all of this and more.
Let’s be clear here: Disney Infinity is the company’s response to Skylanders, a popular game which was released in 2011 by Activision. The two are mirror images of one another in that both use starter packs that include a portal and a few character figures. To establish future sources of revenue, both Disney Infinity and Skylanders created additional figures and accessories that are released over time. With this being said, Disney truly perfected the entire concept of a figure-to-game initiative as compared to Skylanders; while the latter relies on lesser known characters such as Spyro the Dragon, Disney capitalizes on its popular movies which, in turn, has created an explosion of interest since the system debuted. Think about it. Whether you’re a kid or an adult (many of whom play which has resulted in this becoming equally favored despite age brackets), would you rather play with a dragon character that you have no real connection or knowledge of or someone like Captain Jack Sparrow from the big screen? The answer is clear and this is what has given Infinity a leg over the competition.
Since its official launch on August 18, 2013, over 3 million units of the Disney Infinity starter pack have been sold around the world. In fact, it ended 2013 as one of the 10 best-selling games in the United States according to NPD Group, a market research firm that tracks retail sales. This is huge for Disney Interactive, the company’s game division, which has experienced difficulty proclaiming a “hit” product over the past several years. Looking back, many of the division’s games were paired up with a new movie release and less than stellar in terms of their graphics and overall gameplay. Infinity has topped the charts in these areas which is clearly shown through its sales.
Additional Play Sets like that of The Lone Ranger and Toy Story in Space along with new character figures have driven sales even further. In October, for example, a Jack Skellington figure sold out at GameStop stores in just three days. Power Disc packs, which offer gamers new abilities and powers when placed on the Infinity Base, have seen similar sales. Fans flock to stores on release days to get the latest discs. This continues to be the trend for other figures and accessories as more is added to the game.
It is this trend that could very well turn Disney Interactive into a more successfully profiting business when compared to its expensive past. Between 2008 and 2012, Disney Interactive lost a total of $1.31 billion due to unsuccessful roll outs. According to Disney’s fourth quarter 2013 financial report, the interactive segment turned a profit of $16 million which shows great promise from the $76 million lost one year earlier. The company credits such turnaround to Infinity’s overwhelming success. According to President and CEO Bob Iger, retailers and Disney alike are excited for Infinity’s future due to its strong performance of starter packs and character figures. Similarly, James Pitaro, President of Disney Interactive, said that sales have completely gone beyond internal expectations thus setting the stage for a long-lasting platform.
When you break it down, Iger and Pitaro are correct in thinking that the future is positive. Each starter pack ranges from $50-$90 depending upon current markdowns. Additional character figures average $13. Other accessories like Power Disc packs, disc albums, carrying cases, display boxes, and even a new system controller (seen below) bring in further sales. Because the figures and accessories are so cheap when compared with buying an entirely new video game, individuals are more likely to add onto their Infinity collection than look elsewhere. Thus, Disney Infinity provides the steady revenue stream that the interactive division has been looking for, and it will only get stronger as more technology is rolled out.
Likewise, with additional Disney and Disney-Pixar films in the works, additional character figures, Play Sets, and Power Discs could appear. Consider the award-winning and Oscar-nominated movie, Frozen. Before the film was even released, Disney Infinity had fans hooked on a new figure set featuring Anna and Elsa, the main characters, and Power Discs to transform gamers’ Toy Box worlds to appear more like the snowy kingdom of Arendelle. Once it hit theaters, Frozen saw great success which encouraged even more Infinity gamers to purchase the new set. It was a win-win situation for both the Interactive and film divisions of the company and very smart indeed.
For those visiting Walt Disney World, you can find Disney Infinity items for sale at Once Upon a Toy in Downtown Disney. All of them are those available at your local stores though. At this time, there are no theme park exclusive items which is unfortunate because there could really be a market for them. With this being said, be sure to take your MagicBand and place it on the Infinity Base the next time you play in the Toy Box. There’s a great surprise waiting for you!
The Ugly Side
Despite the overwhelming success of Disney Infinity, there have been a few issues that have been less than magical. When it comes to pre-orders of character figures, there have been a few instances of inappropriate stock at retailers, shipment dates being postponed, and uninformed store employees. Take what I like to call “The Series 2 Album Debacle,” as an example. In late September, a Series 2 Power Disc Album Set appeared on a popular store website with a release date of early November. Pre-orders were sold out within several days. Once November hit, orders were cancelled by the retailer, shipment dates on the website were changed, and patrons were told their item would not be available for some time after it was released in stores. This caused quite a bit of aggravation and confusion especially for collectors and those looking to get the set as a Christmas gift. Luckily for some, they were able to visit the store and purchase the album set – despite many employees saying it wasn’t released yet (this is when iPhone images of release information and weekly circulars came in handy). Similar scenarios took place when popular character figures were released, including Rapunzel, which is still difficult for some to find in certain areas of the country, and Vanellope von Schweetz.
It is this level of misinformation on retailers part that can cause aggravation for some consumers. Let’s be clear in saying that I do not believe it is the fault of Disney Interactive in any way. However, I think something needs to be done so popular stores who sell the Infinity line have enough stock to meet demands. Also, more training is needed so that employees are well-informed and can help those looking to purchase items.
For those new to Infinity, don’t stress. Based on what we have seen so far, you are able to get nearly every item without difficulty, albeit not always on release day; if that does not matter to you, there is no sense in rushing to the stores or using the pre-order option on their websites. The stock does come in and is typically replenished after the mad rush. In my experience, I’ve only seen availability difficult with the Rapunzel character figure and disc set mentioned above; every other item is well in stock in most stores.
The world of Disney Infinity has a promising future. Now that the holidays are over, new character figure release dates are popping up online – a way to further engage those who bought the game early on as well as those who received it as gifts. Looking ahead, there are three new items coming up:
- Sorcerer Mickey (January)
- Power Discs – Series 3 (February)
- Phineas & Agent P Set (March)
The two character figures will be released exclusively at certain retailers for a few weeks before a universal release. Power Discs will be sold everywhere next month. In addition to these, several rumors have been surfacing regarding whether or not there are more characters coming to the game. In fact, John Vignocchi, an executive producer at Disney Interactive, has said in recent interviews that there may be other surprises in store including those from various partners of The Walt Disney family.
There has also been talk of the next generation of Disney Infinity which fans have dubbed DI 2. Rumor has it that this version will be even more advanced and take the game to a new level. It has been said that it will work with current character figures, so don’t think your purchases will be a waste when this is released (rumored for Summer 2014). I personally believe that this is when we will start to see theme park exclusive items as well as new Play Sets and am excited to find out what will be made. Talk of a Star Wars set has been strong as have other fan favorites such as Ducktales, The Muppets, Darkwing Duck, etc. Combining any new sets with the characters we already have will make for fun adventures.
All in all, Disney Infinity has become an incredibly popular game for adults, children, and families. It truly brings Disney gaming to the forefront and does not disappoint. Like many, I have found just as much fun in collecting the various character figures and Power Discs for the game as playing it. The figures themselves are not cheaply made, and I enjoy having them on display. I’m eager to see where Disney Interactive takes the game in the future and will be sure to share my thoughts here when that happens. In the meantime, I’m going to grab my controller and Elsa figure; it’s time for an Infinity break!