It’s a bummer that seemingly came out of nowhere this afternoon, the news that Disney is exiting the video games publishing business and shutting down Disney Infinity following the upcoming release of figures from ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and FINDING DORY. Shocking as it may seem, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised, as the hints of a crash have been coming – the “toys-to-life” gaming category having already peaked, its shelf life already dwindling. We’ve seen this before, with trends like music gaming dominating retail aisles with massive interactive displays and an ever-growing array of hardware, games and accessories. Eventually, consumer overload takes place, retailers get tired, and interest eventually plummets no matter how good the latest game in the series is. The biggest problem with games and toys and merchandising in general is pretty simple: there’s just too much stuff available. We’ll swing back to that in a minute, though…
Activision’s SKYLANDERS (2011) was first out of the gate a few years back, and we actually had the first two versions here at Rock Father HQ. Personally, I thought the games were just okay, but nothing particularly exciting… though I thought the business model was genius, forcing the purchase of physical toys to unlock cross-platform in-game characters. Fortunately for us (as parents), the Skylander’s craze never caught on here, and the few items we had ended up as garage sale fodder.
Enter Nintendo’s amiibo (2014) and LEGO Dimensions (2015) alongside Skylanders and Disney Infinity (2013), and a very crowded market took shape – each fighting for the love of kids, and the dollars of their parents. With each new release in a series, countless figures and accessories that were now rendered near-obsolete ended up hitting the clearance bins, and retail hates that.
My first hint of that with Disney Infinity 3.0 came just two months ago – on the eve of the release of a new Captain America Play Set, and a new assortment of figures from ZOOTOPIA and THE JUNGLE BOOK… Best Buy quietly placed a ton of really recent figures on sale for as little as $4.99 each, allowing parents like myself to fill in some gaps (we went after the STAR WARS figures) for cheap.
Disney Infinity has faced much of the same plight that we saw with platforms like ROCK BAND and GUITAR HERO the first time around… even though the game itself has gotten better in quality (and Disney Infinity 3.0 is truly a stellar game), saturation and lack of growth caught up to a really expensive business endeavor, and Disney pulled the plug on it. On a personal level, it’s a real shame because Disney Infinity was the first video game that our entire family of four played together (and we keep the girls much more tech-free than most kids), and a platform that was legitimately cared for and nurtured by a team that truly believed in making something special that families could enjoy together. Today, around 300 of those folks are out of jobs as Disney moves it’s business to a licensing model.
https://www.instagram.com/p/7JBTfNR-tU/” style=” color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;” target=”_blank”>#DisneyInfinty absolutely rocked it with their new characters and figures. #SabineWren from #StarWarsRebels is our favorite so far. #ForceFriday #ForceFridayCountdown #StarWars #StarWarsEvent #disneyinfinity3 #toyography
While the video game aspect of Disney Infinity (and its competitors) is the “meat” of the platform, the real appeal for our kids has always been the figures themselves. They’re beautifully-designed little statues (non-articulated “figurines”), and they’re played with here on a near-daily basis… without even turning the Xbox on.
When you head out to your local retailers this week, take a glance at all the toys-to-life products collecting dust on the shelves and pegs. It doesn’t matter if it’s Skylanders or LEGO Dimensions or amiibo or Disney Infinity, there’s thousands upon thousands of unsold figures out there (too much stuff!), and as they begin getting marked-down and cleared-out, the real magic will begin when they wind up in the hands of children.
The real magic isn’t in the game, but in a child’s imagination. As Disney Infinity shuts down, those characters will live on and continue to have countless adventures fueled by the minds of our children. Disney Infinity was a three-year experiment, but imaginative play is timeless and will always bring toys to life – no servers needed.