This year, Disney pits the might of Marvel against Frozen’s formidable favourites in its hotly anticipated follow up video game title, Disney Infinity 2.0. Boasting a range of new figures, Robert Hutchins takes a look at why toy retailers should be getting in on the action this Christmas.
On paper, a soiree of Captain Jack Sparrow, Buzz Lightyear, Mr Incredible and Frozen’s Elsa has all the makings of an eccentric dinner party.
Throw in a bottle of tequila and who knows where the night might lead?
But in reality, what this melee of characters has achieved is nothing short of a global force to be reckoned with, at retail.
When Disney Infinity launched last year, armed with a roster of iconic characters from the studio’s portfolio of movies, it delivered a new challenger to the Near Field Communication toys category.
An arena previously owned by Activision’s Skylanders, Infinity took to it like Donald Duck to water, selling three million units worldwide and generating $500 million. In fact, it only narrowly missed out on the top spot in the category to Skylanders Swap Force.
Disney has now revealed that it will be aiming even higher this year with Disney Infinity 2.0, introducing a new batch of heroes to the game-to-life space, including a menagerie of Marvel characters.
Armed with a new wave of characters, Chris Dring, editor of video games trade magazine, MCV believes Disney Infinity 2.0 could well be stealing the limelight this Christmas.
“With the popularity around the Marvel characters, [Disney Infinity 2.0] could well outstrip last year’s Infinity and be one of the biggest kids games of Christmas,” he explains.
“The inclusion of Guardians of the Galaxy, along with The Avengers characters, will likely prove a big draw.”
While the Marvel element may appear to be its biggest appeal this time around, Disney notes that Infinity 2.0 will also offer fans a more immersive platform with which to engage with their favourite Disney movie characters.
“We believe this next chapter in the Disney Infinity series truly takes this gaming experience to the next level with its incredible line-up of characters, new adventures and enhanced features,” says Yolande Vandenbulcke, senior marketing manager for Disney Infinity 2.0.
“The Toy Box mode is really the heart of the game and the enhanced features mean that the Toy Box is now a lot more accessible and even more immersive. What’s more, the figures themselves are very, very high quality and really nicely stylised,” she continues.
“There is real value in collecting the figures from a display perspective.”
When it comes to fan appeal, Disney Infinity and Disney Infinity 2.0 is certainly casting its net wide, drawing on a catalogue of beloved characters, from Monsters University’s Mike and Sulley to Marvel’s Thor. And it is for this reason that many believe Infinity can sit comfortably on toy shelves across the globe.
“With Infinity, the characters are already really well known and appeal to both boys and girls,” says Steve Kerrison, owner of independent toy store, Kerrison Toys.
“What’s more, as stand alone figures, the quality and the price means that for not a lot more than other action figures, you have something that offers incredible play value when used in the Infinity game.”
Last year, Kerrison saw Disney Infinity outsell Skylanders, a result he believes is down to not only Infinity’s appeal as both a game and figure range, but its wider appeal outside of the Infinity universe.
And it’s a belief echoed across industries.
“It’s an interesting time for the toys-to-life genre,” continues MCV’s Dring.
“I think Disney Infinity is worth considering for toy retailers, even if the margins might not be quite what they’re used to.
“The toys are extremely high quality, and they’re likely to appeal to people that aren’t just interested in playing the game – unlike Skylanders, which doesn’t have much appeal outside of the video game.”
Having stocked computer games since the Atari 2600 first landed on UK shores, Kerrison is well versed in the margins they deliver, and is now looking forward to an onslaught of custom when both Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Superheroes and the still to be confirmed Star Wars ranges hit shelves.
“The new arrival of Marvel figures will bring in a different buyer and Marvel fans will love what the game brings,” he says. “Then, when we move onto Star Wars, you are opening up to a whole new level of buyers again.”
Of course, Disney is also expecting big things from the new game this year, and keenly demonstrated its excitement with a UK launch in which The Avengers ran riot in London last month with an impressive light show, including a 35ft projection of Hulk lifting Tower Bridge.
“We are super excited about the launch of Infinity 2.0,” adds Disney Infinity’s Vandenbulcke.
“Disney Infinity has been a global success both from a critics and a sales point of view and with the continued support of our retail partners along with the quality of both the game and the figures, we’re confident that this will be a successful next chapter in the Disney Infinity franchise.”
With CentreSoft handling the distribution of the new range, Disney has also revealed that independent toy retailers are high on the agenda this year.
“With Disney Infinity being a really fun and compelling video game for kids and families, it is a good fit with toy retailers,” explains Vandenbulcke.
“Distribution of Disney Infinity 2.0 to toy retailers and independents is handled by CentreSoft who we work really closely with.
“We are always keen to explore what more we can do with Disney Infinity in this space.”
However, while retailers eagerly anticipate the Christmas sales of Disney Infinity this year, elsewhere, competition is already hotting up.
Later this year, Nintendo will bring its own range of NFC toys, called Amiibo, to market. The initial line-up has already caused a buzz, featuring the likes of Pikachu, Mario, Link and Donkey Kong.
Meanwhile, Skylanders has already made the jump from consoles to tablets with its newest title, Skylanders Trap Team, a full game featuring a controller, a stand and toys.
With this in mind the NFC battlefield is certain to be an exciting place to keep a watchful eye on for the near future.