Disney still proud of Disney Infinity, 100 percent behind it

Bucking a trend that had new editions of the game hit every year, Disney today announced that Disney Infinity 4.0 won’t be released in 2016. Instead, the company will continue to support and grow out its current game, Disney Infinity 3.0, which was released last summer.

The good news is that it means there’s no need this year to buy a new starter disc, which typically sold for $65 with a hub and new figures, or spend $30 for the game alone.

The bad news is that it means there won’t be any major overhaul to the game’s core systems, hub world or Toy Box mode.

Instead, Disney is riding on the framework of Disney Infinity 3.0, using it to support at least four more playsets and a stream of new figures.

“For all existing fans, this is great news to them,” said John Vignocchi, vice president of production at Disney Interactive. “For people on the fence about buying into the game, we’re giving them a chance to take another look.

“We’ve always positioned Disney Infinity as a family gaming platform and brought some of the best developers to work on it, and we feel like we have achieved a level of quality with 3.0 that is indicative of the Disney brand.”

That said, news today that Disney won’t be investing in another major update to Disney Infinity this year does come on the heels of the company’s earnings report earlier this month that showed the game isn’t selling as well as expected.

“At Games,” according to the financial report, “growth was due to higher licensing revenue from the success of Star Wars: Battlefront, partially offset by lower Disney Infinity results. The decrease from Disney Infinity was due to higher inventory reserves and lower unit sales volume.”

When I asked Vignocchi if the two were connected, he said they weren’t, and maintained that Disney is still deeply invested in its Disney Infinity games.

“We are number one in this category,” he said. Disney’s earnings report “did not have an influence on whether to put out [Disney Infinity 4.0] this year.

“The company has been completely behind Disney Infinity. If you look at all of the creative content coming out this year, you can see they are still proud and still 100 percent behind us.”

Recent promotions within the company do seem like they could work well for Disney Infinity.

James Pitaro, the new co-chairman of Disney’s consumer products division, is also the president of Disney Interactive.

“He’s been a big supporter of Disney Infinity over the years,” Vignocchi said of Pitaro. “Jimmy’s appointment as chairman is significant because it shows our company‚Äôs commitment to the merging of physical and digital content together.”

Disney Infinity meets Power Stone

The biggest evidence that Disney is still behind its series of open-world exploration and creation games is the flow of content the company announced during today’s video event.

The 15-minute video laid out plans for four new playsets, each delivering unique gameplay to Disney Infinity 3.0 and a number of new characters.

“Disney Infinity will support all of the major events and theatrical releases at Walt Disney in 2016,” Vignocchi told Polygon. “This year we will release four new playsets, each introducing unique gameplay for the platform. Each of the playsets will represent new content from our core properties.”

Those properties, he said, are Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars.

The first playset is the one we already know about. The Marvel Battlegrounds playset, which hits March 15, brings with it four-player rumbles using any of the previously released or yet-to-be-released Marvel characters.

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Vignocchi likened the game to Capcom Dreamcast classic Power Stone, and said it would include destructible environments, a light story and level transitions.

The March release of a Marvel playset leaves Disney, Pixar and Star Wars for the remaining three playsets, though Vignocchi declined to talk about them.

The new characters kicked off today with Judy and Nick figures from Zootopia. The Marvel Battlegrounds playset will include Captain America figure in a Civil War-inspired costume. Disney will also be releasing Ant-Man, Vision and Black Panther in Civil War costumes on March 15, along with Spider-Man in his black suit. Black suit Spider-Man was previously available only as part of a starter pack.

Finally, March 15 will see the release of Baloo, tied to the Jon Favreau remake of The Jungle Book.

“With all of the content we are releasing this year, this will be the largest Disney Infinity release to date,” Vignocchi said.

What won’t change

While Disney Infinity 3.0‘s core game mechanics won’t change, that doesn’t mean there won’t be additions to the game outside of the playsets and toys.

“There will be elements added inside the hub throughout the year,” Vignocchi said. “We will be running a bunch of Toy Box TV content to support the releases.”

He said the team will also be designing playable games and levels that can be accessed through the hub’s Toy Box mode.

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What won’t be changing is the face of the hub. The design of that central world, like the game’s mechanics, won’t be getting any sort of upgrade while Disney Infinity remains at 3.0.

“The hub is designed very specifically as an onboarding mechanism to help players fully understand the breadth of content inside of Disney Infinity,” Vignocchi said. “Doing any changes to that would change the overall flow of the hub.”

All of today’s news was announced during something called Disney Infinity Next, a video that is designed to not just lay out the future of Disney Infinity, but also to give viewers some insight into the process of making Disney’s games, movies and other content.

“There will be more episodes coming this year,” he said. “We haven’t determined the cadence yet; it needs to line up with retail and releases.”

And there seems to always be more news to share for a game that stretches across so many different properties.

BB-8, Darkwing Duck, VR and AR

I asked Vignocchi about the strange absence of Star Wars: The Force Awakens fan favorite BB-8 from the current roster of Disney Infinity’s Star Wars figures.

Is there a BB-8 figure in our future?

“We are absolutely investigating BB-8,” he said. “It’s a challenge because BB-8 is a totally different sort of character than we’ve done before; he’s not a vehicle, not a biped or even a [quadruped]. We’re looking at what we can do for that particular character. We will release it when it makes sense, if we’re going to.”

Darkwing Duck, a long-held personal favorite of Vignocchi’s, is also still not in development as a figure. At least not yet.

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Disney Infinity continues to poll fans for their favorites, and Darkwing Duck is high on the list, though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s coming to the game as a figure.

Finally, I asked Vignocchi about virtual and augmented reality.

With VR or AR headsets planned for many of the platforms on which Disney Infinity 3.0 is available, is the company looking at bringing the game to these different reality headsets?

“We are looking at the technology,” he said. “Finding ways we can leverage technology to provide new and compelling experiences for our fans is a priority to us at Disney.”