Disney Toys with New Games Strategy

'Disney Infinity' will enable the Mouse House to promote its older characters.

When “Disney Infinity” launches later this summer, the videogame-toy hybrid will represent not only a new direction for Disney Interactive, it will also give the Mouse House a unique way to promote its older characters that may not have been worthy of their own high-profile release.

“There are a lot of kids who probably don’t know all about, say, Dumbo, these days,” said Disney Interactive chief Bill Roper at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “Could we make an entire game about Dumbo right now? Probably not. But we can insert it [into Infinity].”

Like Activision’s “Skylanders” franchise, “Disney Infinity” will combine highyl stylized  physical figures with virtual play areas on screen. Each play set will cost $35, with starter packs priced at $75.

As with the “Epic Mickey” games  before it, ‘Infinity’ gives Disney the chance to re-introduce older, lesser-known characters. But because of the way the game is designed — a blend of real world toys and traditional console videogames – it also lets the company incorporate new characters from future films without having to completely reinvent the wheel.

“The great thing about this platform is the ability to have that continual support,” Roper said. “We have to work together in the Disney family to support what’s there and what’s coming.”

While no characters from Disney’s powerful TV franchises have yet been announced for the game, Roper said they certainly haven’t been ruled out. Franchises like Disney Channel’s “Doc McStuffins” and “Sofia the First” could easily be inserted into the game as either figurines or environments.

“We want to look at everything we can possibly get in,” Roper said. “The continued breadth of what we’re able to support is going to become apparent.”

Right now, though, “Disney Infinity” is very focused on young boys. The only announced figures come from “Cars,” “The Incredibles,” “Monsters University” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Roper said the team works in conjunction with Disney Consumer Products to help decide which characters will work best in the game. Purchase data from the company’s retail arm helps them target characters that appeal to the widest audience.

The game, originally planned for a June launch in conjunction with “Monsters University” was recently pushed back to August, a delay the company says was done to put the game in a more favorable release window. (Retailers were willing to pledge additional shelf space to Infinity and its ancillary products in the normally slow release month.)

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