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DisneyGames

Disney Shuts Down Infinity, Will Lay Off Up To 300 Employees

Despite Disney’s unstoppable streak at the box office, other parts of the company aren’t doing as well.

In a surprise announcement today, Disney revealed that it is shutting down Disney Infinity, its three-year-old interactive game/collectible franchise. The company also announced that it is taking a $147 million charge against its second-quarter earnings to shut down its console game business.

“After a thorough evaluation, we have modified our approach to console gaming and will transition exclusively to a licensing model,“ Disney consumer products and interactive chairman James Pitaro said in a statement. “This shift in strategy means we will cease production of Disney Infinity, where the lack of growth in the toys-to-life market, coupled with high development costs, has created a challenging business model.”

In addition, Disney will also shutter its Salt Lake City subsidiary Avalanche Software, which it acquired in 2005. The layoffs across Avalanche and Disney Interactive will number “between 250 and 300 jobs,” a Disney spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.

Other video game companies are extending a helping hand to the hundreds of people that Disney is laying off. Insomiac Games, for example, posted this message on Twitter:

Avalance founder John Blackburn, who was svp and gm of Disney Infinity, wrote on the Disney Interactive site that a few more Infinity releases were still to come: “We have two final retail releases coming, including three new characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass later this month, and the Finding Dory Play Set launching in June.”

Disney Interactive launched the Infinity line in August 2013, envisioning it as a way to tie together all of the company’s entertainment properties into a single gaming universe. At the time, Disney CEO Bob Iger hinted at how the concept was a last-ditch effort to save Disney Interactive: “If Infinity does well, it bodes very well for the bottom line of this unit. If it doesn’t do well, the opposite will be the case.”

The opposite indeed happened: declining sales of the Infinity toys and overall lagging consumer interest in the “toys-to-life” category has forced Disney to re-evaluate its strategy of developing games internally. The company is now widely expected to invest more resources in online and mobile gaming.

Disney’s retreat from console gaming has happened gradually over time; the company laid off around 700 employees two years ago when it scaled back Disney Interactive.

  • Gluff

    Hm. I’m surprised but I don’t really feel bad. Compared to the other toy-to-life games, I think Disney Infinity had to be the worst out of all of them.

    • aquapyro

      funny you say that, since Infinity was the most successful critically last year.

  • Johnno

    So I guess that just leaves Activision (Skylanders) & Nintendo (Amiibo) in that market?

    I guess there was only so much collecting people could do.

    • Alex Dudley

      Don’t forget Lego Dimensions!

  • Taco

    Very Very Sad. Some very talented & hardworking folks at Avalanche. Gods Speed. Go forth, Create & let Disney rue the day they let you slip through their fingers.

  • Landon Kemp

    That’s disappointing to hear. As if my extreme dislike for most of the modern gaming industry couldn’t be any worse, Disney, of all companies, investing in online and mobile games over console games just goes to show that the modern market is way too messy and not very focused.

    Either way, this does raise questions about the other “toys-to-life” examples and what will become of them.

  • Andrew

    Infinity wasn’t profitable because the animated and interactive feature are too distincts, example, models, animations and textures have to be redone from scratch by Disney Interactive/Avalanche staff to be usable in their games, which is quite ineffective.
    If i could i would have trained the animated feature staff and interns to be able to produce game-optimised models, textures and animations, then have the interactive section only deal with the game design and coding.

    • god++

      Dude, lol, doing “animations from scratch” isn’t going to kill a company. That’s why there have been a crapload of licensed games from movies throughout the years where the animations had to be from scratch.
      And no, it’s not just about “game optimizing models, textures and animations”… And a game is waaaay more than just “animate, design and code”. Do you even know what you’re talking about?

    • patbb

      you seem to greatly underestimate the scale and complexity of both, the animated features process and the video game process.

      designing stuff can be quite costly,
      but re-creating models and textures seems to me to be a very simple, easy and relatively cheap or even negligible expense to them using fairly cheap and not necessarily skilled labor.

      • Andrew

        Making game assets is not as easy as you seems to say, the big difference being a game must looks great all around, 360°, unlike a feature film where the view is railroaded to polished vistas. In a game, you cannot control where the camera will be, most models and props (especially props) must be made by anticipation to look great at all sides. And this takes a lot, lot of time to do, and add to that more time to pull the differents level of details (close, mid, far ranges).

        Same thing with animation; each moves must look at their best best as a whole, while in a movie, given the camera view, you can just animate the head, or the upper torso, or just a hand, and leave the rest unanimated or done horribly on the other facets, as long as what you see at this exact view position and angle is excellent. Often in a game, you need to create inbetween animations for every move combinations.

        Textures need to be readapted, and sometimes repainted due to the conversion losses, or to be mappable in backgrounds and props. The trickiest ones are thoses you must makes as great as the movie’s procedurally-generated textures.

        Tons of works, done by many interns to cut costs, distant of Burbank’s expertise, in tight schedules, result in decent, but not great assets. This force the franchise to not further risk quality by only releasing contents where everyone puts their stakes on (and as you see for Frozen, Zootopia… This decisional system didn’t worked), which hasted Infinity’s demise.

        • god++

          So, how come third party companies have NO PROBLEM doing movie tie-in games, and yet for some reason, Infinity needs to be shut down because “they waste too much effort” doing models for the game?

          You do know that basically every game makes models from scratch, right? It’s part of the development process.

          • Andrew

            Regular video game business and toy 2 life business have different
            constraints – in toy2life manufacturing toys is expensive, leaving
            a very small profit margin, margin to be split with more employees than
            in a regular video game company – toy designer, terminal engineers,
            proprietary devices developpers… Due to the fierce competition with
            the other toy 2 life manufacturers, each one has to devise a plan to stay afloat:

            -lego dimensions have a very low production cost in comparison
            with Disney, no advanced skills required.
            They can afford a very small asset team; also, toy making cost is low, due to most
            parts coming from previous designs. They can put most of their effort in gamedesign.

            -nintendo: toy2life department is straight from the main company.
            They have no trouble producing assets (shared tools and methods across the department),
            and their gameplay expertise ensure them to sell amiibo without much troubles

            -skylanders: closest of Disney’s situation, they have two aces up in their sleeves:
            first, activision have a long experience in video game, and knows how to coach their
            developpers, second, their toys are extremely cheap produced. Many buyers complains
            of the very low quality of their toys (bad paint, brittle plastic). Very low price
            means even at 8$ Skylanders can still be profitable. Activision can get away with it
            because they knew in gaming, gameplay come first, and the big profit done on each figure before lego and disney jumped in gave them a spearhead in the competition.

            -infinity: trying to best at figure and game quality, however, at 15$ the margin
            is very thin; with the other toy2life brands Disney had to slash their prices
            fast – from 15$ to 9$ in just 3 months. In thoses remaining 9$,
            you can’t set the figure price and the game price without either
            decreasing quality of the toy, or the game, or keeping the two up and
            suffering losses. Avalanche have to redesign each toys to match infinity’s common style,
            and produce them with top expectaction for their games. If their games weren’t successful,
            their toys won’t sell, and if they are, forced low price make the company bleed money faster.

    • Hankenshift

      The idea of Infinity is that they’re visually unified. Not a “mashup,” per se. That’s what makes it unique–and why it looks as good as it does. Animation and effects work for various films are done by different companies with different software and approaches (including design) around the world. Getting the films done is a Herculean task, as is the game design and engineering. But the games crews have to begin work often long before the films are completed in order to be released with the film.

      And let’s all put the final nail in using the term “animations.”

      http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/animation-vs-animations-46448.html

  • siskavard

    Just taking a wild guess here, but it’s probably because of the success of Nintendo’s Amiibo line.

  • Sebastian Sandberg

    The only reason I feel bad for this is because Darkwing Duck never got to be a figurine, despite hints from the developers and extensive fan votes. But I do symphatize with the game’s fans.

    • Andrew

      For me the biggest misses are Disney’s strongest Franchises, still no proper Mickey, TLK or Frozen playsets in sight to this day!

  • Roca

    This could have been easily solved…make the game free and charge for the figures. Boom. Make it as a variation on “freemium” games…Release the game for free on consoles…allow people to play as much as they want but require the portal and figures/accessories to reach new levels, special abilities, etc. They could have swept the toys-to-life market with that approach. These games are very expensive to get into and parents know it. $60-$70 just for the starter pack. Then $8-$10 per figure! Make the game free, people will buy the figures. I promise. There is precedent: look at the Pokemon card game. You can download the game, signup and play for free. Kids buy the cards so they can play in real life and upgrade their online decks. And they pay LOTS of money to do this. Saw a $60 Pokemon card set in the toy store just yesterday. And individual rare cards will go for $10 and more in comic shops. So anyway, too bad they decided to axe it. Looked like fun.

    • Doconnor

      There are iOS and PC versions that are free. You entered a code you got with the figures to activate them.

      • Roca

        I don’t think this was well communicated if that’s the case. The other problem with the game is they didn’t allow inter-franchise interaction in the way that Lego Dimensions does. In Dimensions you can take Gandalf and play through a Doctor Who Level, Marty McFly can play in a Ghostbusters level, etc. Can’t do that in Infinity apparently.

        • Barrett

          I’ve never played Disney Infinity, but I would have thought that whole POINT of it was for you to be able to play as Elsa and visit The Best’s Castle, where Capt. Jack Sparrow might be hanging out with Mr. Incredible. Are you saying that characters couldn’t visit one another’s lands the way they do in Wreck-It Ralph?

          • zakima3

            exactly, you couldn’t visit another characters land as you described perfectly above. Its a shame because they were so focused on all the new properties that were coming out that they forgot they could have made a game based about Disney world or magic kingdom and included all of their characters and worlds from that point … however they chose the easy path of giving up… oh well

  • I thought the Nick Wilde figure was too spot on. I’d love to buy that just to have it since the game isn’t of interest to me.

  • Sounds like they’ll just license IP’s to outside firms to develop games instead.

  • I never cared for Infinity but that’s still tragic to hear. I genuinely admire the amount of craftsmanship that was put into the figurines. They look better constructed than most Amiibos!

  • Andrew

    An already experienced employee in a given film, will be way more fast
    and effective derivating a work than another who did not designed the
    more elaborated film version, as you need time to warm up and readapt to each new design, this apply for art and sound, so what it is cut on this side of production can be invested in more coders, which are essential to deliver more playable content, because in video game, gameplay is king, something Infinity couldn’t timely deliver.

    • Andrew A

      Haha…Ok. Sure thing man!

  • otterhead

    I think the decision to make the Infinity figures exactly match the onscreen characters was very clever; your toy is exactly what you see.

    Quite honestly, while I loved Infinity, I think it was too complex. Instead of a straightforward simplistic game, it had multiple layers: the Toy Box, the Playsets, character-generated games, mini-games, creation mode, etc etc. There was a learning curve to it and kids might’ve found it overwhelming.

  • Gizzy Lerms

    Mobile gaming isn’t doing so well for Disney either. Nobody pays for the stuff – they can get it for free.

    They are considering axing that as well. So not sure why they’re asserting to the public they will shift to mobile gaming when they assert to production, even outsourced, that their jobs are insecure at best.

  • Walking Fool

    I wonder if this will affect Playdom in Palo Alto, CA.