It’s been over a week since Disney announced they were ending Disney Infinity, but people are still buzzing about it.
And rightfully so. After all, the game was one of the biggest players in the entire “Toys to Life” market, developed in-house by one of the biggest corporate entities in the world. If they couldn’t cut it, what chance then for the rest?
Fortunately, I don’t think things are as doom and gloom as they seem. On USgamer’s “From Us to You!” show, their regular panel (including my wife, Nadia Oxford) have a bit of discussion about the whole thing and how it came to this point, as well as where things appear to be going:
Interestingly enough, it seems that Disney’s departure may actually benefit the category in some ways, if only by allowing more breathing room for others taking part in it. This includes a new contender with a non-licensed (as in, not based on existing properties… none I know of, anyway) game called Infinite Arms, which Bob Mackey describes as “made for the kids who grew up on Toys to Life.” Featuring larger figures designed to work with a free-to-play mobile game, this creation of Jumo has a nice pedigree with Yasuo Takahama, one of the creators of the original Transformers, helping design its fighting MetaMod mechs. (If you’re interested in learning more, Mackey wrote a preview a few months ago.)
Geeks of Doom examines the timeline of Disney Infinity and seems to reach the conclusion that with the company’s overall stock price dipping and the heavy investment involved in trying to get this thing to catch on, Disney was ultimately cutting their losses on a property that just wasn’t earning them the money they needed from it as quickly as they needed it. This is corroborated by Kotaku’s report which not only looks at where the developers at Avalanche Software were hoping to take the series next, including remedying that pesky “characters from different franchises can’t mingle outside of the Toy Box” issue and bigger figures of their most popular characters, but where things went wrong.
Interestingly enough, for all the venom spewed at Nintendo for their handling of amiibo scarcity early on, Disney represents the opposite side of the coin:
“The biggest issue with [Disney Infinity] 2.0,” said one source, “and probably the reason for the closure of the studio and the end of Infinity was that they made too many toys. Infinity 1.0 had a major shortage of toys. They were almost always off the shelf and manufacturing was behind by months. […] The expectation was that the brand would grow and they would sell more units and toys. It’s hard to put in perspective how big of a failure this was since all those additional units were added to the books destroyed any chance for 2.0 to be profitable.”
How far off were they? One source pointed to Hulk, one of the game’s most popular characters. A story bouncing around the company was that expectations for Hulk were so huge, they produced two million toys. Unfortunately, as the story went, they only ended up selling one million units.
Throw in forcing the inclusion of characters nobody wanted and an already fiercely competitive marketplace, and it seems Disney basically overinvested in the the line to the point that it couldn’t possibly hope to meet their expectations. Meanwhile, it seems that the other Toys to Life contenders from Activision’s Skylanders, Warner Bros. Interactive’s LEGO Dimensions, and to some degree, Nintendo’s amiibo are all doing well for themselves, hopefully managing their own expectations along the way. (In Nintendo’s case, some short-supplied amiibo have still yet to be re-released.)
The market still seems to be there for Toys to Life, and even for Disney Infinity, as GameTrailers and Easy Allies founder Brandon Jones expresses his disappointment with the news:
Despite the impending end, Jones plans to continue his “Toy Box Tuesdays” online show, at least until Disney shuts down the games’ servers. Meanwhile, other fans are still trying to petition Disney (like you do) to reconsider deep-sixing the entire thing.
Finally, one other note from Kotaku I came across when referencing their other story about this is how Walmart seems to have pulled their Disney Infinity stock from shelves, likely to either be returned to the warehouse or prepped for clearance bins. Given the aforementioned overproduction of figures, the latter seems more likely.
With that, it doesn’t look like Toys to Life is going anywhere — just Disney Infinity, which will hopefully serve as a message to the rest on how not to handle things going forward. For now, I need to see if I can find Phineas and Agent P at a good price.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.