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Disney cancels Disney Infinity, shuts down self-publishing business

For the past few years, the Disney Infinity line of console and PC titles has been a profitable and well-received entry in the so-called “toys to life” genre. These types of games combine real-world products and figurines with digital gameplay — players buy a “Starter Pack” of several figurines and a starting world area, then buy additional characters to unlock specific scenarios or areas of the game. Activision’s Skylanders is largely credited with launching this concept, but Disney has built three Infinity titles — Disney Infinity 1.0, which focused on its own core IP as well as several Pixar films, Infinity 2.0, (The Avengers, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Infinity 3.0 (Star Wars, Inside Out, Finding Dory, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Now the company has announced that the entire Infinity line is being canceled and phased out, while the studio responsible for producing the games will be shut down, a loss of roughly 300 jobs.

There have been hints that this decision was coming; Disney announced roughly a month ago that future updates to Infinity 3.0, which launched last August, would not be supported on either the Apple TV or the PC. It’s still surprising to see the company outright cancel the entire product line — Nintendo’s Amiibo business has been a huge success for that company and Disney’s focus on both Star Wars and the MCU should have paid huge dividends given how well The Force Awakens and Civil War have recently been received.

Disney blamed its lower-than-expected quarterly results on a $147 million charge related to shutting down the Infinity product line, and declared that it would exit the self-publishing business altogether. The company will continue to license the right to produce games in franchises that it owns, which means Star Wars titles being built at companies like EA will not be affected. While Disney has never been a huge publisher, it’s still surprising to see a company that controls so many franchises and entertainment outlets eschew video games — particularly when Robert Iger, Disney’s CEO, has stated that he wants to make Disney less reliant on television.

Nintendo is generally perceived as having the largest, strongest pool of first-party franchises, but Nintendo doesn’t hold a frickin’ candle to Disney, which owns its own vast horde of characters as well as Pixar, Marvel, and the Star Wars franchise. Given this goldmine of potential content, you’d think the company would have some interest in building video games around it, but leadership has decided otherwise. According to a recent blog post by John Blackburn, SVP and general manager of Disney Infinity, “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… Our goal for Disney Infinity was to bring the best of Disney storytelling to life in homes around the world, and with your support we accomplished that. We hope you had as much fun playing the game as we had making it.”

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