To infinity and into oblivion

In the five years since <em>Skylanders: Spyro&#39;s Adventure</em> pioneered the toys-to-life genre, the mash-up of toy-like statues and interactive media has seen the highest forms of success. Figures sold out for months on end, collectors scouring stores daily for that one elusive toy, and scalpers selling rare figures at five times the price on eBay were commonplace among the peak of its popularity.</p>

This massive level of success caused many companies to take notice and try their hand at genre. Soon enough Skylanders was joined by Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions, Nintendo's amiibo line, and even Yo-Kai Watch medallions. As more competitors entered the fray, store shelves filled up with toys and sales have started to slow down. Sadly, over-saturating the genre has led to its first casualty.

In what came as a shock, Disney announced the cancellation of Disney Infinity along with the closure of its developer Avalanche Studios on May 10. This announcement comes a little under five months after analysts declaring Disney Infinity 3.0 as the most popular toys-to-life video game on the market selling $200 million in toy and game sales for 2015. So how could a franchise go from top dog to cancelled in a few months time?

The obvious answer came in the press release, as Disney is no longer interested in publishing video games. After the success of their partnership with EA over the Star Wars license, specifically Star Wars Battlefront, Disney sees more potential in licensing their properties to third-party publishers rather than risk money on a games division that's unlikely to yield the same returns as their other multimedia divisions. It is a reasonable decision, but Disney seems to be cutting the legs off of a franchise that finally hit its stride.

Disney Infinity 3.0 may not have been the best game of 2015, but it did a great job of updating many of the series' mechanics. Combat was overhauled to add more depth than bashing enemies with the same five moves. Avalanche put more effort in crafting original stories for each playset. More genres such as racing, tower defence, and fighting were added into the mix. Also adding Star Wars to the game helped a bit. Overall, 3.0 was the game that the first Disney Infinity should have been and it had the ability to go on to be a video game crossover to rival Kingdom Hearts.

In my opinion, the major factor that killed Disney Infinity was the combination of over-saturation and a slowing market. As evident from year-to-year, toys-to-life genre isn't the giant it used to be. People no longer buy Skylanders in droves, only the most committed — aka me — pick up each wave of amiibos upon release, and more customers would rather buy actual Lego sets than Lego Dimensions sets. What has sped up this decline is the yearly release of Skylanders and Disney Infinity.

From the first pitch, Disney Infinity was meant to be a platform for games based on Disney's wide array of properties. In theory, the playsets were supposed to be the games and Disney Infinity disc was the software needed to operate this platform of Disney goodness. Unfortunately, somebody at Disney thought otherwise or the idea was too ambitious to be managed by little chips embedded in toys as we've received three Infinitys in as many years. Personally, I think the game-as-a-platform approach would have done better and helped appeal to the money-conscious, who were the beneficiaries of the title's target audience.

Disney Infinity may have met its end, but hopefully its legacy will serve as a cautionary tale for others looking to dive into the toy-to-life genre. This genre is unlike any other on the market and it needs to be handled differently than your traditional video game. Figuring out this fact may be the difference in reaching infinity or oblivion. 


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