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Disney Infinity is Finished. What About Skylanders and Amiibos?

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By Nelson Schneider - 05/21/16 at 03:50 PM CT

On May 10, 2016, Disney Interactive Studios – the videogame publishing arm of the giant tentacle monster that is Disney – announced that they were folding-up shop and discontinuing their big seller, the ‘toys to life’ figuring-selling engine, “Disney Infinity.” Having reached the 3.0 revision mark last year with the addition of the ‘Star Wars’ IP, late of LucasFilms, “Disney Infinity” appeared to be a significant money maker, earning its parent corporation around $200 million last year alone.

Yet Disney doesn’t think the ‘toys to life’ market has enough room for growth moving forward, but is instead stagnating as more and more competitors enter the arena and divide the audience’s focus. Activision more-or-less created the market with their “Skylanders” figurines, and Nintendo followed suit in their own special way by releasing their Amiibo line of NFC figurines that interact in less-than-meaningful ways with a variety of current Nintendo games rather than interacting in a significant way with a single game, as do “Skylanders” and “Disney Infinity” figures. It seems that Warner Bros.’ entry into the toys-to-life arena with “LEGO Dimensions” was too threatening for the House of Mouse, and they decided to completely bail-out of videogame publishing altogether.

Personally, I’m curious why Disney ever tried to self-publish games in the first place. Anyone who was alive and playing videogames in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras should remember that Disney’s licensed games were the only good licensed games, and that Capcom was the company behind them. Disney has always had success in farming out their IPs to a competent dev/pub team, so why they decided to self-publish games in the modern era is perplexing. About the only solid product to come out of Disney’s self-publishing efforts – besides “Disney Infinity, that is – was “DuckTales Remastered,” which was, of course, a simple rehash of a very good Capcom game from back in the day.

Disney is huge. Disney is imposing. Disney owns a significant piece of every pie that contains even a hint of media flavor. So if they are squeamish about the future profitability of the toys-to-life market, perhaps Activision and Nintendo should sit-up and take notice. In my experience of trolling Nintendo communities online, the reaction to Amiibo’s is very polarized. People either obsessively love them and collect three copies of each one (one to open, one to keep, and… another one to keep) or they hate them and consider them a DLC gimmick given physical form. There’s even an unofficial NFC device on the market that can duplicate the effects of all Amiibos, thus saving non-fanatics the burden of buying a boatload of mediocre figurines in order to access in-game perks. Activision, as one of the Triumvirate of Evil, has income to burn, and they need something to broaden their customer demographic outside of shooter-loving DudeBros. Nintendo, on the other hand, has been struggling mightily this-gen, and burning their cash reserves on a market that has plateaued would not be in their best interest. Of course, Disney tended to over-produce “Disney Infinity” figures and playsets, whilst Nintendo famously short-prints all but the most recognizable characters’ Amiibos, so maybe they’ll still make-out okay.

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Chris

Wrote on05/21/16 at 09:20 PM CT

I'm more concerned that Disney apparently thinks video games as a whole is a risky venture. With both the Star Wars and Marvel licenses (not to mention oh, Pixar and their own animated films) you would think they would be foaming at the mouth to get out games. Yes, Battefront was a disappointment, but come on - release an updated Rogue Squadron type game, a new Knights of the Old Republic - forget that MMO model - they better be courting some companies in the future, because if mobile games are the best I can look forward to - it will be a sad day indeed.

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