Skylanders Swap Force vs Disney Infinity

Wired's GeekDad and Family Gamer editor Andy Robertson on what the battle of the toy/game products means for the industry.
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Just as we were getting used to the yearly cycle of Skylanders announcements, previews and releases Disney Infinity comes along and muddies the waters. 

It will be interesting to see how this year pans out for both products, and whether Activision will tailor its plans to take account of the new competition. 

Indeed, Disney has already adjusted the release date of Infinity from June to August based on retailer feedback.

Snagging the best deal with retailers, both for space and exclusives, will contribute heavily to how well Skylanders Swap Force and Disney Infinity do. 

Talking to Jerry Storch, Chairman of Toys R Us at a recent launch event for the Skylanders game, it was interesting to hear him talking in glowing terms not only of Activision’s game but of the toy-meets-game genre in general.

Beyond retail tie-ins, it will be the comparative features and value of the two games that draws the biggest audience. 

Here we need to do a little homework to get to grips with Skylanders Swap Force and Disney Infinity, on the surface they seem very similar but scratch a little and the differences become more apparent.

Meet the Skylanders

Skylanders Swap Force is the third game in the Skylanders series. As previously you place action figures on a portal peripheral to access them in the game. The game saves progress and upgrades back to the figure so you can also use it at a friend’s house. 

This year the game will introduce 16 new mix and match Swap Force figures that allow the player to customise the toy and then use that mash-up character in the videogame. 

It will also offer the usual re-release and new core Skylanders figures as well. 

Perhaps the biggest downside for consumers is that they can’t use their existing portal, but must buy a new Swap Force Starter Pack that will increase the cost to consumers.

Here’s an introduction to the game from Development Head Guha Bala…

Follow the latest news and interviews in my Skylanders Swap Force playlist.

Meet Disney Infinity

Disney Infinity is a new game from Disney Interactive. It too uses toy figures to access in-game characters and content, but there is less focus on saving progress back to the toy here. 

The emphasis is on variety rather than progression with the game offering different play-set adventures for CarsPirates of the CaribbeanThe Incredibles and Monsters University

Each of these not only looks different but enables different gameplay and interaction from exploration to city management to seafaring. 

Rather than save character customisation to the toys, Disney Infinity enables players to change how their game characters perform by placing Power Tokens beneath them on the Infinity portal. These collectible tokens are sold in blind packs and offer a variety of Disney character themed upgrades and enhancements.

Although lacking the role-play character development of Skylanders, here Disney Infinity not only adds another retail line to its offering but also a route for children to swap tokens in the playground.

The final differentiating element in Disney Infinity is its game creation “Toy Box” mode. This enables players to create their own games from scratch using the items and characters won in the main game, or unlocked with the tokens. Both this and the main game can be played with two players locally or four players via an online mode.

Here’s an introduction to the game from Development Head John Blackburn…

Follow the latest news and interviews in my Disney Infinity playlist.

As Jerry Storch suggested in the above interview, there could well be space for both these games at retail, only time will tell. Certainly, Disney Infinity is riding on the wave of interest in the toy-video-game genre created by Skylanders. More than simply imitating that success though, it hopes to move things forward in a fresh direction. 

About the author

Skylanders expert Andy Robertson is editor of GamePeople.co.uk, writes Wired's GeekDad column and runs Family Gamer TV.

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