You may have already heard the news, Disney Infinity is going the way of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.
The impact of this reaches further than you'd probably expect, which I will get to in a moment, yet also marks the end of a solid developer as well. Basically, the news itself means that Disney will no longer be publishing games at any level and will now be licensing out their properties to other developers. Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, James Pitaro, said the following:
“After a thorough evaluation, we have modified our approach to console gaming and will transition exclusively to a licensing model. 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.”
This also means that Avalanche studios is closing its doors, eliminating 300 jobs in the process.
On paper, the move makes total sense and should have been seen coming a mile away. For the last 3 years, we've had a new Disney Infinity installment every year. When Disney announced that they would be extending out generation 3, instead of relaunching this year, we should have been suspicious. When they announced that they wouldn't be at E3 at all, well, that is now a ringer. The earnings report painted a picture of an under performing franchise and any look at a Best Buy or Walmart gaming area told you that their product simply wasn't selling.
Part of this was likely due to the lack of aggressive marketing that Disney did with Disney Infinity 3.0. There were no more limited runs, new characters were released completely without fanfare and disks became a one-time purchase instead of a collection-based impulse purchase. Long story short, it sounds like Disney was done playing this game before we even realized it.
When word got out that Activision's Skylanders is now beginning to under-perform as well, and Nintendo's Amiibo seem to be getting fazed out too, there's probably no surprise that Warner has been very quiet about the future of Lego Dimensions and Disney cutting ties with their own franchise. Toys-to-life hit its pinnacle early and that death knell has begun.
It's sad too, my 8-year-old son briefly enjoyed the game. He actually had some strangers on the internet chip-in and get him 2.0 so he could stream it. The series was near and dear to his heart, even if he didn't play it often. Of course there are some things still planned to release sooner rather than later, like a playchest for the Return to Wonderland movie, as well as Finding Dory. I don't know of anything Disney can release further will convince them that leaving the toys-to-life was a bad idea. If Nintendo and Warner Bros can't get interest in their formally popular products, the whole toys-to life is in quite the pickle.
Unfortunately for Disney and it's competitors, the market became completely over-saturated with duplicates of products. With 3 different Disney Infinity game portals, 900 Skylanders portals and the NX weighing heavily on the future of Amiibo, these game'toys just aren't hip anymore.
Disney's failure with Disney Infinity really isn't a mismanaging of a successful project, instead it is a sign of the times that shows that toys-to-life may just be at the end of its life-cycle. I wouldn't be surprised if Skylanders took a year off to see if Activision would notice their former cash cow missing when they look at the books. It probably means that toy-based games as a whole are probably about to go on a hiatus until VR becomes cheaper and they find a way to integrate their products into it.
It's more upsetting that over 300 people will lose their jobs when all they did is actually create a title that was pretty creative, but unfortunately lacks any sustainability. I hope that those effected are able to bounce back on their feat shortly.
Meanwhile, you may see a flash sale on those Disney Infinity figures in the near future, if you were going to grab a few just for the fun of it.