Disney Interactive Studios has used its huge brands such as Marvel and Star Wars to rise to the top of the billion-dollar toys-to-life category over the past two years. And now, after releasing brand-new Disney Infinity Starter Packs for three years in a row, it’s shifting gears and expanding its Disney Infinity 3.0 platform through free upgrades.
Additional content will also be unlocked through the purchase of new play sets, characters, and power discs that tie into film releases such as Zootopia, Captain America: Civil War, the live-action Jungle Book, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
According to John Vignocchi, vice president of production at Disney Interactive Studios, this change in the development focus was made to meet market demand and respond to community feedback.
“We can now start to think differently about how we bring the product to market,” Vignocchi says. “Instead of having a new Starter Pack this year, we’re going to give fans more value to Disney Infinity 3.0 by doing software patches and releasing more characters and play sets.”
New play sets, beginning with the upcoming Marvel Battlegrounds, will come packed with just one character (Captain America: First Avenger in this case), instead of two.
Vignocchi says Disney Infinity remains the No. 1 game in the toys-to-life category for second year in row in both revenue and overall unit sales.
According to VGChartz.com, over 1.94 million Disney Infinity 3.0 base sets have been sold worldwide since launching last fall. That site does not track individual sales of the toys.
Michael Pachter, video game analyst at Wedbush Securities, believes the toys-to-life category is worth $1.2 billion today and Disney owns half of it. He estimates Disney (dis) sold over $200 million of Disney Infinity Star Wars games and toys last year. The company released a series of toys and games based on all aspects of the Star Wars universe, including the exclusive game for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Vignocchi explains that last year’s strategy was to focus and capitalize on all of the excitement around the realm of Star Wars, although Disney still supported Marvel and Pixar’s Inside Out with new content.
“This year Infinity is a platform that covers the breadth of Disney,” Vignocchi says. “All the major events and theatrical releases will be supported. If it’s happening at Disney, it happens inside of Disney Infinity.”
Disney Interactive Studios will release four new play sets across Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar this year. And each will introduce new gameplay, more characters, and more content, Vignocchi says.
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While Disney Infinity 3.0 will remain the starter pack for the foreseeable future, Disney is working with both internal and external developers to expand its offerings through new toys that open up additional gameplay styles.
John Blackburn, studio vice president and general manager at Avalanche Studios, says Marvel Battlegrounds will introduce four-player brawler-style fighting to the platform.
“Instead of being an open-world sandbox game, we’re providing a party game that people can get together and play on the couch,” Blackburn says. “We went through and changed all of the moves of each character and tuned everything for a player vs. player-style fighting game.”
In addition to introducing new gameplay through play sets, Disney will continue to add free updates to the Toy Box mode of the game such as the kart racing and dungeon crawling gameplay that was introduced last fall.
There will also be a bigger focus to tie Disney Infinity into other divisions. Last fall, Disney Cruise Line added a Disney Infinity playroom to its Disney Dream ship’s Oceaneers kids’ club area with a life-sized gaming setup. And both Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort integrated Disney Infinity games into the new Star Wars attractions. Epcot also added Disney Infinity games to the Innoventions pavilion. And the games are sold across the theme parks, as well.
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“Bob Iger feels you have to have strong franchises and get cross-company synergies and Infinity does that really well,” Blackburn says. “It’s pretty easy for us to go out to other divisions of the company and get traction. Infinity fits in really well with what the company does.”
Disney is keeping everyone from fans to retailers and journalists updated on this gaming platform through “Disney Infinity Next” YouTube livestreams, which debuted today. Vognocchi says moving forward this method will be used for key messaging.