Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US) showcased “Lone Ranger” and “Monsters University” characters tied to its Infinity video-game platform, which goes on sale in August and is designed to boost the company’s money-losing interactive unit.
The play sets, drawing on characters from the forthcoming Disney movies, feature plastic figurines that are set on top of a base unit and appear on screen. The characters were shown yesterday with the Infinity system at E3, the video-game industry’s annual conference in Los Angeles that runs through this week.
Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, unveiled Infinity in January, saying it would reduce costs and improve earnings at its interactive division by incorporating characters from multiple Disney movies in the same game. The company also has been promoting other characters for the platform, including from its “Cars” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.
“You play your way and it is as fun for you as anyone else,” said John Blackburn, chief executive officer of Avalanche Software, a Disney Interactive unit. “We want this to be deep enough for a father to play with his sons but we wanted it to be easy enough where kids can play as well.”
Burbank, California-based Disney will sell the figures, which will come with “power discs” that add special powers, weapons and vehicles from Disney movies. A starter kit with the base and figures from the “Pirates” and “Monsters” franchises and “The Incredibles” is priced at $75, and the game can be played by four people over an Internet connection.
Players can use characters from the starter pack across other games. An area called “Toy Box” allows users to create their own game in genres including racing, sports, fighting and world-building.
Infinity’s combination of video-game play with collectible figures is similar to “Skylanders,” a game from Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI:US) that generated more than $500 million in sales in the U.S. last year. Infinity comes out Aug. 18.
“I think the buzz around Infinity is very strong,” Sean McGowan, an analyst at Needham & Co., said in an e-mail. “It comes at a time when parents are being asked to shell out a lot of money for gadgets -- tablets and new consoles that already have a solid claim on some of that discretionary budget, but if it’s a quarter the success of ‘Skylanders,’ it’s a big hit.”
Disney earlier this year pushed back the release date for Infinity from June and said in a May 7 conference call that the interactive division would report a loss in the current fiscal-third quarter similar to the $54 million shortfall it experienced in the prior three-month period.
“We believe in Infinity,” Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer, said on the call. “We think it will be a great product and it’s going to help drive profitability for fiscal year 2014.”
Disney fell 1.6 percent to $63.83 at the close today in New York. The stock has gained 28 percent this year, compared with a 15 percent advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
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