Video games on home consoles are facing a serious threat from the increasing popularity of the mobile platform, which has the ability to easily deliver new content to millions of gamers for a lower price than the next generation platforms such as the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii are used to. Disney Interactive has decided to get a bit creative and shake up the traditional disc-only model by adding collectible figurines and power discs that enhance the onscreen play. I was invited to Hollywood yesterday to see the game, Disney Infinity, up-close – find all the details I uncovered on this ambitious new gaming initiative after the break!
Back when the Toy Story 3 video game was released in 2010, Avalanche Software began developing a follow-up to their critically acclaimed hit. With the first entry largely based in a western town fitting Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye, the studio was set to tackle a grander setting for the sequel: space, an environment where Buzz would fit perfectly. However, after John Pleasants became Co-President of Disney Interactive, he asked why the toy box mode, which brought together a variety of Toy Story characters in a world where gamers not only had challenges to complete but were free to explore and customize, could not be extended to include more Disney properties. Plans for a second Toy Story 3 video game were scrapped and the idea for Disney Infinity was born.
Pleasants, John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Disney Animation), and John Blackburn (Vice President and General Manager of Avalanche Software) officially announced the game on stage at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on Tuesday morning. Disney Infinity, which will be the first game to bring Disney and Pixar characters together on screen, allows for a traditional achievement-based gameplay, but similar to the Toy Box mode from the Toy Story 3 game, also provides a customizable world for players to do as they please. The sheer immensity of the game’s scope can be seen in the numerous items, vehicles, buildings, devices, weapons, and toys that can be unlocked and added to the world to ensure that no two players will ever produce the same results on their own.
The aspect that has been making the most noise since rumors of the game began to permeate into the blogosphere involves the physical figurines and power tokens. The starter pack will include three figurines (and play sets): Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles), Sulley (Monsters University), and Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean). The collectibles not only unlock the characters’ respective worlds for structured gameplay (dubbed “Play Sets” by Avalanche), they become playable characters in the Toy Box mode. The power discs, which come in both circular and hexagonal shapes, will be available in blind packaging and will include character power-ups (e.g. strength, speed), items, and terrain and environment theming (e.g. the ground may emulate the Sugar Rush game in Wreck-It Ralph, the skies may change appearance to provide an underwater feel such as in Finding Nemo, the lanterns from Tangled may begin to float in the beyond, or the moon from Nightmare Before Christmas could hover prominently in the background). Given the ability to construct one’s own terrain, tracks, and buildings as well, there is no surprise that one of the developers at Avalanche even recreated a Bowser’s Castle level from the Mario Kart series, which players could then race on. A soccer field can even be constructed, with opposing teams, stands, and a fully operational scoreboard. The game is billed as an experience without limits and after getting a closer look at the game yesterday, it is hard to argue otherwise.
Many have been worried about the eventual costs of buying into the Disney Infinity initiative, with the starter pack, additional figurines and power discs that will certainly add up over time financially. The good news is that the game will be fully playable right out of the starter pack, with a plethora of items, weapons, and environments ready to be unlocked within the game without a single additional purchase. Now, once you hear of a disc that unlocks Aladdin‘s Abu in elephant form, you may very well take on the challenge of finding it. If you want additional exclusive content, you have to purchase the figurines and/or the discs. As the power discs will be sold in blind packs, Disney Interactive will also be releasing chasers that will not be as widely available as others, instantly making them highly treasured and tradeable.
Initially, there will be 17 character figurines, 3 Play Set location packs, and 20 power discs available, in addition to what will be included in the starter pack. Here is the pricing breakdown on the price of all the items:
- Starter Pack – $74.99
- Play Set Location Pack – $34.99
- Character Figurine – $12.99
- Figurine 3-Pack – $29.99
- Power Disc Blind Pack – $4.99
Both modes of Disney Infinity will be playable by one to four players (up to two on one console and up to four through online play). We were shown demos of the Xbox 360 version, but the game will also be available for the PS3, Wii, Wii-U, and PC/Mac. Details for mobile versions were not readily available, but Nintendo 3DS and Apple iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) are confirmed platforms.
I also learned that there will be an accessory line accompanying the launch of the game, which will undoubtedly provide some much-needed organization for storage of the physical game pieces. Carrying and storage cases are currently being developed and should be on the market when the game releases.
Trying to understand what was possible, I asked if we could potentially see new characters and play set locations introduced although they may not be coded into the final hardware release of the game. It seems that this first iteration is limited in that sense, as levels and characters from the Marvel and Star Wars universes (which are both owned by Disney now) would likely not make it into the game if Avalanche does not lay the foundation for it on the game disc itself. And yes, I did ask – they could not confirm nor deny whether characters or locales such as Iron Man and the Death Star will make an appearance. Those two properties will likely not make it into the first game, but may very well show up in a sequel.
What has me most excited is the ridiculous level of customizability, with items and locations from Disney and Pixar films along with Disney Parks being included. Uncle Scrooge’s vault from Ducktales was prominently visible in one of the demos, and any reason to pay homage to the classic TV show is fine by me. While legacy characters such as Mickey, Minnie, and Donald Duck were not announced as those that will be included in the line of figurines and playable characters, they will hopefully be introduced in the coming months.
Disney Infinity is scheduled for release this June, and all directions point to it becoming a huge hit for Disney Interactive and Avalanche Software. With its previous two releases of the Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 games, Avalanche produced high-quality gaming experiences that went well beyond adapting the films to the world of video games. There is much more to be announced before the game’s release this summer, and I am excited to see just how far the studio can take it.
Stay tuned for more coverage from the Disney Infinity announcement event.