As part of its second quarter financial earnings report, Disney quietly announced that it was suspending its console games business and cancelling Disney Infinity. The company stated that it would write down a $147 million charge in relation to the discontinuation of the toys-to-life product.
"By now you may have heard the news that we have made the difficult decision to discontinue production of Disney Infinity. From the beginning, Disney Infinity was built for you-our fans-and I wanted to take a moment to thank you not just for your support over the years, but for creating a community that made Disney Infinity more than just a game," explained Disney Infinity senior vice president John Blackburn in a statement.
The game will see two final releases: Alice Through the Looking Glass later this month and Finding Dory in June. Once that's done, Disney is out of gaming altogether. This also means that Avalanche Software, the studio behind Disney Infinity, has been shuttered, with all 300 employees being laid off.
For Disney, the console gaming market never really made sense. High cost, high risk, and little guarantee on return. Disney Infinity was supposed to be the turning point for Disney Interactive, the one division that was constantly operating in the red.
"Console games cost tens of millions of dollars to build," said former Disney Interactive co-president John Pleasants to Variety in 2013. "They're not cheap and come with quite a bit of risk associated with them. When you look at what the division was doing three years ago, we were largely focused on console products."
"I think this could be the last gasp for Disney on doing console games internally," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told Variety at the time. "I think 'Infinity' has to work for them or they're going to be reticent to try a lot of new things going forward."
Disney Infinity probably made a good deal of money, but for Disney, the licensed Star Wars Battlefront represented the future moving forward. Pachter estimated that Disney Infinity made $200 million in revenue last year, while Star Wars Battlefront earned $660 million. The $200 million estimate put Disney Infinity ahead of Lego Dimensions and Skylanders, but Disney is a huge company and its perspective on 'successful' is vastly different.
By licensing the Star Wars brand to Electronic Arts, Disney doesn't have to have developers on hand to make titles. It reaps the rewards and the risks are all Electronic Arts. At some point, management looked that the gulf between Infinity and Battlefront and wondered why it was publishing games in-house. You can probably expect to see more licensing of Disney properties, but most of that will probably lean on the mobile side.
Disney already has successful mobile titles related to its brands, including EA's Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, Netmarble's Marvel Future Fight, and Kabam's Marvel: Contest of Champions. I'd expect to see another developer picking up the rights to make standalone Spider-Man, X-Men, or Avengers games on consoles, but the days of movie tie-ins on consoles are dead.
I admit, I was always a huge fan of Disney Infinity, but not for the games. I have a solid collection of the figures because they're great designs of some of my favorite Marvel and Star Wars characters, at reasonable prices. As I type this, Black Panther, Yoda, and Symbiote Spider-Man sit on my desk. I was looking forward to getting some of the Star Wars: Rogue One characters in Infinity form later this year. Shame that's not happening.
Hopefully, all those involved in the layoffs find new employment soon.