There was widespread surprise earlier this month when Disney shut down its Disney Infinity line, a so-called “toys to life” franchise that pairs collectible toys with digital games. The news came just months after the series’ third, Star Wars-based installment generated an estimated $200 million in revenue and garnered solid reactions from critics.
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Following the announcement, the game industry has been abuzz with a big question. Does Infinity’s end mean that the toys-to-life model has peaked, the same way musical games did?
But Disney’s decision to throw in the towel stretched far beyond Disney Infinity. In conjunction with a disappointing first quarter earnings report, the company announced that it will back out of in-house game development entirely, shuttering its Avalanche studio, and instead licensing its properties to other developers.
Disney already has extensive game licensing deals for its huge stable of characters and worlds, which now includes Marvel’s superheroes as well as Star Wars and Disney’s homegrown animated stars. According to a lengthy analysis at Gamasutra, it was the allure of that lower-risk licensing model, rather than particularly poor performance, that did in Infinity and Disney’s (dis) games division.
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What wasn’t a problem, according to Gamasutra’s conversations with retailers, was the toys-to-life segment itself, which grew quickly from 2011 to 2013 before leveling off. According to a Gamestop representative, parallel products including Nintendo’s Amiibo line and Activision’s Skylanders are still very healthy. The end of Infinity could even provide a boost to those lines, as consumers look for an alternative outlet for their collecting impulse.
According to Kotaku, future, now-shelved plans for Disney Infinity included larger figures and the ability to mix content from multiple Disney properties.