Toys and video games hook up on new Disney game platform

Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:21pm EST

* "Infinity" concept inspired by Disney and Pixar films

* Game platform launches in June, starter pack $75

* Disney Interactive division needs hit badly -analysts

By Malathi Nayak

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Children will be able to move plastic toys that look like pirate Captain Jack Sparrow and other movie characters into a virtual world on a computer or TV screen in a game platform Walt Disney Co unveiled on Wednesday in hopes of boosting revenue at a loss-making division.

Disney's new "Infinity" concept, to be released in June, comes with games inspired by "Monsters University," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Incredibles" franchises. The toys will come to life onscreen after being placed on a small electronic portal, similar to Activision Blizzard's "Skylanders," one of 2012's top-selling games.

In Disney's "Infinity," users will transport Disney and Pixar characters into onscreen adventures by placing their toys on a flat hexagonal board. A starter pack with software, the board and three plastic figurines is priced at $75.

Other Disney and Pixar characters will also be incorporated into the platform as the platform evolves, John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios said at a launch event in Hollywood, California.

The company's Disney Interactive division, which makes video games and interactive content, has been reporting losses over the last year, and analysts say it badly needs a hit.

"We've put a big bet on this," said John Blackburn, vice president and general manager of Disney's Avalanche Software studio that developed the platform.

In 2011, Activision launched "Skylanders," which connects to consoles such as Microsoft Corp's Xbox or Sony Corp's PlayStation. Activision said this week that the Skylanders franchise hit $500 million in U.S. retail sales.

Disney's Infinity will be able to connect to computers and consoles including Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo's Wii U.

Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia said Infinity's concept is similar to Skylanders, except that it uses better-known characters, like Jack Sparrow of "Pirates of the Caribbean."

"Activision has the lead and the head start," Bhatia said.

He said Activision's "Skylanders" is heading towards hitting a billion dollars in revenue, making it tough for Disney to compete.

Infinity also comes with a "Toy Box" mode, where users can create their own virtual worlds by mixing backdrops and characters from different Pixar and Disney franchises.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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