This past weekend, the DualShockers team got to take a sneak peak at Disney’s upcoming massive action-adventure game, Disney Infinity. The initial presentation left a sour taste in my mouth as we were shown the first 37 minutes of the upcoming Monsters University, as well as about fifteen minutes of The Lone Ranger. Halfway through the Monsters University screening I forgot that we were there for a video game presentation. While entertaining, Disney Infinity functioned as the bookend to two big Hollywood films rather than making a point for its existence.
At its core, Disney Infinity appears to be a diffusion of several successful video game intellectual properties coupled with the entire catalog of Disney characters and adjoining franchises. The game functions similar to an MMO with questlines that are specific to each Disney property including The Lone Ranger, The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wreck-It Ralph, Cars, Toy Story, and Monsters University. There were hints in the form of items and power-ups related to other Disney properties such as Mickey Mouse, Tron, and pretty much every Disney princess and their related franchises. Disney’s newly acquired library of Marvel Comics and Star Wars characters could potentially be added to the game once it has permeated over the next couple of years – in time for Avengers 2 and Star Wars: Episode VII. I cannot help but fathom that the former, while successful, would be highly redundant when set next to the successful Marvel Super Hero Squad franchise.
Some of the more on-the-nose similarities are encompassed by the ability to change the environment around you by adding anything from your own player-created games, challenges, and hazards, to other obstacles. There is a lot of the creativity and freedom associated with LittleBigPlanet inherent in the gameplay of Disney Infinity. The other half of Disney Infinity‘s similarities to other IPs comes in the form of Activision’s Skylanders franchise (the comparison between the two was made immediately after Infinity’s announcement). Skylanders and Infinity run on the same model: a piece of gaming software augmented by physical components (which cumulatively cost a small fortune!). Both sell themselves on the the allure of experiencing the ability to create your own worlds, while amassing a physical collection of the characters of your world outside of the game.
The dichotomy between the two games is interesting to me, personally, since Disney has the advantage of both brand recognition and loyalty, while Activision jumped on board with this particular genre of play first, and has already amassed a loyal fanbase and consistent product. There are definitive pros and cons to either game, and I foresee a significant, though not sizable amount of people picking up Infinity over Skylanders or jumping ship entirely. Disney contains a plethora of characters that have longstanding popularity that spans decades of films and television. Brand recognition is one attribute of Infinity that puts it over Skylanders; I would not be surprised if a poll of gamers familiar could name scores of Disney characters over the only recogizable character in Skylanders, Spyro. Can brand recognition topple Skylanders though? Is it worth the money? When children are already engrossed and having fun, I do not see Infinity having that much of a pull. Over time however, things could work out differently; Disney has barely scratched the surface of the properties and storylines that they have included in their initial build of Infinity.
Unless parents and fans of the franchise are willing to resell the dozens if not hundreds of dollars worth of Skylanders figures and paraphenalia they have purchased, I find it hard that they would consider even thinking about purchasing Disney Infinity. There is only so much Mickey Mouse can do, even for this game.