Disney isn’t mincing words when it comes to describing the importance of Infinity, the cross-property, cross-platform gaming initiative that it announced this morning. The company’s fact sheet describes it as “Disney’s most ambitious game initiative ever,” while Disney Interactive Co-President John Pleasants compared it onstage to the first time he watched TV’s Wonderful World of Disney, which introduced him to Disney’s many characters and titles: “Now it’s our time, it’s Disney Interactive’s time to meet and even push the bar of innovation, creativity, and technology.”
When I met with John Blackburn, who leads Avalanche Software (the Disney-owned studio that developed Infinity), I asked him whether he was on-board with Pleasants’ grand vision.
“Absolutely,” Blackburn said. “We aspire to that. We could change the way that people think about Disney.”
Infinity will bring together characters from multiple Disney franchises, allowing players to customize their own game environments and stories. The goal, he said, is to build something easy enough and simple enough for young children to use, but deep enough that their parents will want to play, too. To that end, Blackburn quoted Pixar team members who don’t set out to make movies for kids, but rather “make movies for themselves.”
The game will include both “play sets” (which are focused on specific Disney properties, without any crossover) and a “toy box” mode (where you can mash-up all the different characters). Some gamers probably just want the complete freedom of the toy box, but Blackburn said Disney “really respects” the fact that different movies take place in different worlds, so it wanted to give players a way to experience those settings individually.
Infinity will be available for console, mobile, and web. Blackburn said he expects most people to begin with one of the starter packs for consoles (which will come with a set of physical figurines, and which are currently priced at $74.99). He didn’t want to go into too many details about how mobile fits into those plans, but he said there will be a free version, and that for obvious reasons, the toy component will be less important. (Disney describes the mobile side as “an accompanying mobile experience.”)
When Infinity launches in June, the company says there will be play sets available for Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, and for other properties that haven’t been announced yet. Blackburn said the team chose the initial characters carefully, based on questions like how lovable they are and how “game-able” — The Incredibles translates more naturally into a gaming experience than Finding Nemo, for example.
After the launch, Blackburn said Disney will continue releasing expansion sets, and it will also be developing Infinity 2 (he made it sound like that’s just a handy way to describe the next big release, so it might not be the official title). He also noted that the platform is built to accommodate content tied to future Disney movies. That doesn’t mean every new Disney property will end up on Infinity, he said, but the platform’s expandability is “part of its strength.”