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Disney Launches Disney Infinity, An Interactive Game/Toy Franchise

Disney’s ambitious $100 million-plus videogame/toy line Disney Infinity launched yesterday. The company has pinned its digital gaming aspirations on this single property (available for Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox 360 PlayStation 3, and soon, PCs) in hopes of turning around Disney Interactive, which has lost over $1.4 billion in the last five years.

Disney Infinity, which features mostly Pixar and live-action characters (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lone Ranger) has received generally positive reviews—see the IGN.com review or the Forbes review. This 35-minute presentation from D23 expo shows how the company is pitching the product to consumers:

The success of this game is particularly important because Disney has struggled for years in the interactive realm. For example, the Epic Mickey games flopped; its $350 million purchase of Club Penguin and subsequent attempt to integrate its own properties like Cars and Fairies into it, didn’t work as planned; and its $563 million acquisition of Playdom has led to a loss of 20 million users.

Disney is counting on its fans to regularly buy the toys needed to play Infinity—a similar concept to Activision’s Skylanders franchise—since the toys have a higher profit margin than the actual game. This Infinity overview in the Wall Street Journal speaks further about the financial impact this game could have on the company:

Speaking with Wall Street analysts in February, [Disney CEO Robert] Iger acknowledged the high stakes. “If ‘Infinity’ does well, it bodes very well for the bottom line of this unit,” he said. “If it doesn’t do well, the opposite will be the case.” If “Infinity” flops, Disney would likely have to re-evaluate its videogame strategy, possibly shifting to an all-licensing model. The interactive unit’s remaining operations would consist of producing online content and mobile apps.

“It’s a Hail Mary with a tremendous amount of pressure to be a hit,” said a person who recently left Disney’s videogame business. As it pours resources into “Infinity,” Disney Interactive has pulled back in other areas. It halted production on an “Iron Man” game scheduled for release this year, for instance, and passed on the opportunity to produce “Star Wars” games following its parent company’s purchase of Lucasfilm.