Eric Johnson

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Disney Infinity Crosses the Platforms: Toy Box Mode Will Work Across Four Consoles and the iPad

disneyinfinityWhen it launches next week, Disney’s ambitious new game Disney Infinity will include a Dropbox-like feature that lets users upload and download the game’s virtual worlds to all major consoles — and iPads.

Disney Interactive is billing the console/mobile cross-platform compatibility as the first of its kind for user-generated content in a game.

So, what is that content, exactly? Infinity’s killer feature is the Toy Box, an open arena where players have free rein to make anything they want by mixing and matching characters and items from Disney’s movies, TV shows and theme parks. At a press event in San Francisco on Tuesday, the company said that custom virtual worlds and even games made within the Toy Box can be uploaded for free to a cloud service, Disney ID, and then quickly downloaded to the Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or iPad.

The free iPad app, Disney Infinity: Toy Box, will not support the full game, which retails for $75 starting Aug. 18. But it will allow players to make new Toy Box worlds, edit existing worlds and explore what they’ve made while controlling a Disney character.

The iPad companion app is Disney’s way of keeping Infinity front and center in kids’ minds whenever they’re away from the console and might otherwise be playing something else — like when they’re in the car or on vacation. During the press event, senior mobile producer Dan Lehrich used an iPad to make a new world in the Toy Box from scratch. After uploading it via Disney ID, he downloaded to an Xbox 360 an exact copy of that world, except with much better graphics, optimized for the console.

ToyBox_UnexpectedPairings_3-X2Why does the full Infinity game cost $75, when a chunk of it will be available for free on the iPad? Although the main version of the game also features single-player story campaigns, the reason is that the console game is bundled with a starter pack of physical toys of characters. Those characters will appear in the game when the toys are placed on top of an accessory base, also included in the $75 bundle.

All app players get Mr. Incredible for free, and additional characters may be purchased inside the iPad app for 99 cents, but those app-purchased characters can’t travel to the console game. Additional physical toys of the characters can be purchased for $12.99, and their virtual counterparts can travel in both directions.

Grounding the game in physical toys of the characters is an interesting move. By selling those bonus characters separately, Disney stands to build out a second revenue stream beyond sales of the game itself, and it may make it easier to bring characters from new or revived franchises into Infinity.

If the game is a success, it could turn around the fortunes of Disney Interactive, which has posted an operating loss in 18 out of 19 fiscal quarters since Q1 2009, when Disney began reporting it as its own segment for quarterly earnings reports.

In addition to the cross-platform play and the iPad app, which will be available “very soon, in the coming weeks,” Disney also announced yesterday that a second mobile app, Disney Infinity: Action!, would come to iOS devices on Thursday. The app overlays characters from Disney Infinity on top of real-world videos taken by users, and lets them share those videos via Facebook, YouTube or email. Android and Windows versions of the Action! app are planned for release “later,” probably within a month.

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