Disney Interactive is shooting for another huge hit with version 2.0 of its Disney Infinity hybrid toy/game franchise, launching today with more than 20 new characters based on some of its biggest Marvel superheroes.
Disney has reason for optimism: Infinity v.1.0 raked in more than $500 million (according to Disney executives back in April) and was one of the year’s 10 best-selling games (according to NPD Group). And the sets and characters being released today — other Disney characters will come November 4 — are based on massive Marvel franchises the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man. And, to the surprise of even Disney, the game system has been a hit with more than young boys, crossing all kinds of demographic lines.
“Infinity has become a four-quadrant property for Disney,” said John Vignocchi, Infinity’s executive producer. “It has just as many (ages) 6-to-12 players as it does teens and as many nonparent adults as parents.” And 45 percent of the players are female, even more of a surprise, though the girl-gamer demographic has been growing steadily across the industry.
Disney Infinity incorporates what its developers call “interactive game figures,” which are placed on a base that is connected to a game console. If you’ve seen the hugely popular Skylanders game sets from Activision, or Nintendo’s upcoming Amiibo franchise, this is very similar. Infinity version 2.0 will add more than 30 new characters, each represented by a plastic figure with embedded computer chips that store information such as the character’s attributes and any assets and abilities they’ve built up in previous play.
“The big innovation we’ve done is focusing on improving the software” in the figures, Vignocchi said. “You can actually make conscious choices about how you want to customize them. You can focus on flight capabilities for Iron Man or maybe the ability to (sustain) more damage.”
Plop one of the characters onto the game’s base and the character materializes onscreen, ready to be used in the game. The Avengers set that I reviewed includes a main game that is a classic platformer. In this one, Loki has unleashed Frost Giants from Asgard in Tony Stark’s/Iron Man’s headquarters. The game, like others across the Marvel sets, is based on new story lines from Marvel’s star writer Brian Michael Bendis. Other smaller game pieces can add more abilities, vehicles or weapons to gameplay.
The system gets even more interesting when you use the Toy Box. First there are Toy Box Games, enabled by some of those smaller game pieces. These additional games can incorporate any Infinity character, not just ones that came with the set originally. The Avengers set includes, for instance, pieces for a tower-defense game and a dungeon crawler.
Players also can tap into Toy Box Mode, using online tools to build their own games and game levels, and to share those creations with other players. It’s perfect for Disney fans with a Minecraft mindset. Disney actually hired five Infinity fans to build new levels for the game sets, to be released on a weekly basis for free download.
The one downside of all this, unless you’re Disney, is that using any of the 37 characters from version 1.0 in the new games and worlds will require a $20 upgrade. The game sets, with bases, cost a stout $75 but promise endless customizability for gamers and hard-core Disney fans. Coming on November 4 will be a series of other version 2.0 characters, including Merida from Brave, Stitch from Lilo & Stitch and Aladdin and Jasmine from Aladdin.