Disney Infinity has been a staple in the toys-to-life market for three years. From Disney and Pixar to Marvel and Star Wars, developer Avalanche Software has called upon Walt Disney Company's popular brands to create an enticing annualized product with broad reach.

The toys-to-life category expanded dramatically in 2015, welcoming new contender Lego Dimensions, as well as Nintendo leaning heavily on Amiibo for the majority of its games. Although Disney claims that Infinity had the strongest sales of any toys-to-life game in 2015 (in terms of revenue and starter packs sold in the United States, according to NPD), Disney Interactive reported weaker than expected numbers for both Disney Infinity 2.0 and Disney Infinity 3.0.

Rather than continuing on with an annualized product, Disney Interactive is taking a different approach to Disney Infinity's forthcoming content. There will not be a Disney Infinity 4.0 this year.

Instead, the publisher is supporting Disney Infinity 3.0 for a second year. “We’re changing our dev focus for 2016 in order to meet the market demand, and most importantly, feedback from our community," John Vignocchi, vice president of Disney Infinity production, told Game Informer. "We feel that we’ve introduced the four core franchises of the Walt Disney Company to Disney Infinity, and now that we’ve done that we can start thinking differently about how we bring products to market. We’re going to give fans what they’ve been asking for, and provide updates to Disney Infinity 3.0 with more content, characters, and play sets from all of our beloved brands.”

Disney's move transitions Infinity 3.0 in the direction of becoming a platform for new content. The publisher reported that in addition to lower sales, it is carrying more inventory than expected. Retailers are likely also unable to move starter kits as quickly as they thought, and if prices get too low to clear out inventory, Disney could find itself in a reserve pricing situation. This is a mechanism in which the publisher offers retailers promotional dollars (or compensation for deep price cuts).

Disney Interactive today announced that four new play sets are coming to Disney Infinity 3.0 in 2016. Each of the four play sets features content from the four core brands: Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, and Pixar. "We're pretty psyched about it," Vignocchi says. "Once you look at the scope of content inside 3.0, it's the largest amount of content ever inside of a Disney game, and hopefully it brings even more people to the platform since there are so many different options."

Our Take
Disney Interactive shifting Infinity from an annualized release schedule to a platform model makes sense, especially as Warner Bros. has also indicated it plans to turn Lego Dimensions into a platform product. The support seems light with only four sets planned for 2016. 

Ultimately, this year gives Disney a chance to be thoughtful about Infinity's future. Pushing another full title into retail, especially since starter kits are a must, could push Disney Interactive into a THQ situation. That publisher was felled by the uDraw, which failed to perform at retail while costing the company enormous amounts to carry inventory and dispose of unwanted product.

A year off from a full game might seem like a capitulation on the surface. However, a cautious approach might just save the division from layoffs or worse.

- Mike Futter