The Edmond Sun

Arts & Entertainment

August 19, 2013

Disney enlists Buzz Lightyear to lure Activision's gamers

LOS ANGELES — An ad for Walt Disney Co.'s new Infinity video-game system features the Pixar characters Buzz Lightyear and Sulley squaring off against a phalanx of movie villains.

Real-world combat moves to toy stores Sunday when Disney, the world's largest entertainment company, introduces Infinity. The system, using technology that combines collectible figures with onscreen play, goes head-to-head with the top-selling "Skylanders" game from Activision Blizzard Inc., the largest independent U.S. video-game publisher.

For Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger, Infinity represents the best shot at reviving his only unprofitable division, an interactive unit that lost $216 million last year. The product will compete with "Skylanders SWAP Force," the next installment in a $1.5 billion franchise that Activision CEO Robert Kotick is counting on as he engineers an $8.17 billion buyout of his largest investor.

"Disney is going to put a lot of marketing dollars into this platform," said Michael Hickey, a Denver-based analyst at Benchmark Co. "They have a treasure chest of intellectual property. They're going to market the hell out of it."

Infinity links collectible figures with game consoles. When players set plastic characters from Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Monsters" movies on top of the unit, they appear on screen as game characters and can interact, the first time the company has put characters from different films together in a game. Additional toys and discs, introducing other characters and features, cost $5 to $13.

Infinity's $75 starter kit includes a base unit that connects to consoles such as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 and Nintendo Co.'s Wii U. The Disney game and earlier versions of Skylanders are rated as suitable for children ages 10 and older, according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

"We've had our, call it fits and starts in this business, and we think we are due for a hit," Iger said in an Aug. 9 interview with Fox Business Network. "And we believe Infinity is that hit."

Tony Wible, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, predicts Infinity will lead Disney's interactive unit to a $123 million profit in fiscal 2014.

Under the direction of John Pleasants, co-president of Burbank, California-based Disney's interactive division, the company has cut back on releases of traditional console-based video games. By developing Infinity as a game platform rather than a standalone title, Pleasants is betting he can develop and sell new products at a lower cost than standalone games.

"It's something we'll be able to live on for years and continually add to it," Pleasants said in a interview earlier this year.

Kotick is working to defend a product that allowed Santa Monica, Calif.-based Activision to buck declining industry software sales and increase revenue 2.1 percent to $4.86 billion last year. He's relying on "Skylanders" earnings to help repurchase most of the 61 percent stake in his company held by Paris-based Vivendi SA.

"Skylanders" is the top-selling video-game title this year in North America and Europe, including toys and accessories, according to Activision. The company will increase marketing outlays this year to meet the Infinity challenge, said Eric Hirshberg, who runs Activision's publishing unit.

"While this genre we've created will face more direct competition than ever before, every indicator tells us that 'Skylanders' franchise is solidly on the rise and has both the cultural momentum and the product innovation to keep it that way," Hirshberg said in an Aug. 1 conference call.

The "Skylanders SWAP Force" starter kit costs $75, with more characters priced at $15 each. Retailers have committed at least 25 percent more space to the Oct. 13 "Skylanders" release compared with last year, Hirshberg said.

Hickey, who recommends buying Activision shares, forecasts Infinity will produce sales of $200 million for Disney this year, while he's predicting $500 million for "Skylanders," an increase from $350 million in 2012.

While both products primarily target boys, Infinity will have broader appeal, including girls and adults who want to collect the figures, said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. in Los Angeles.

 "Infinity is more of a toy customer, 'Skylanders' is more a game customer," Pachter, who has an outperform rating on Activision, said in an interview.

Target Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., have been taking Infinity orders for months. GameStop Corp., the largest video-game retailer, has dedicated space in its stores for Infinity toys and is working with Disney on promotions such as a free magazine for early buyers, according to Kristin Djurdjulov, a vice president for marketing at the Grapevine, Texas-based company.

Toy R Us Inc., the largest toys-only retailer, is putting Infinity boutiques in the front of all its stores, according to Richard Barry, the company's chief merchandising officer. The Wayne, N.J.-based retailer is selling exclusive figures developed by Disney and opening its stores two hours early on Aug. 18 to meet demand.

At a Disney fan convention in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 9, Brenden Stark, a 41-year-old website director from Riverside, grinned as his 7-year-old son Andrew took Sulley, a character from "Monsters Inc.," on an aerial ride in Cinderella's coach at an Infinity trial station.

Andrew has already played through all of the levels of the "Skylanders" games, Stark said. Asked if his son might have to choose between the two games this year, Stark shook his head.

"We'll probably buy them both," he said.

 

1
Text Only
Arts & Entertainment
  • GooGooDolls.jpg Coming in August: The Goo Goo Dolls

    Tickets for the Aug. 5 concert, which are priced at $45.50 and $59.50, go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, April 25.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Woolaroc Woolaroc unveils story of the West

    The museum at Woolaroc has been referred to as “the Smithsonian of the West.”  It’s full of art and artifacts pertaining to western history and the southwestern region of the United States. So why is there an elephant’s head on one wall?
    To understand about the elephant, you have to know a bit about Frank Phillips, one of the founders of Phillips Petroleum. The company was incorporated in 1917 by Frank and his brother L.E.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • brisket2.jpg Food Network show visits Guthrie for ’89er Days

    Guthrie’s annual ’89er Days Celebration provides a variety of activities for people to enjoy including a carnival, rodeo, parade and lots of food vendors.
    This year, visitors at the 84th annual event, which runs Tuesday through Saturday, will notice an added bonus when a film crew from the new television series “Carnival Eats” will be in town filming for its inaugural episode.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama troupe plans Good Friday performance

    Spirit Act Drama Troupe of First United Methodist Church, Edmond will present the passion play, “Christus” by Alison Spitz on Good Friday.

    April 14, 2014

  • mama rabbit 4-15 Good Reads

    NOTE: Email dpeery@edmondsun.com to have your name entered into a drawing for the following titles: “Taking Care of Mama Rabbit” and/or “Cheesie Mack Is Not Exactly Famous” Deadline is 10 a.m. April 21. Winner will be notified by return email. Winner is responsible for picking up the book at The Edmond Sun at 123 S. Broadway. All entrants must be 18 or older to win.

    April 14, 2014 3 Photos

  • Dillingham 1 Andersons provide enchanting afternoon with Dillingham

    Mo and Richard Anderson recently showcased the musical and performing talents of UCO's Ambassador in Residence Kyle Dillingham in a concert at their Edmond home.

    April 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

  • VIDEO: CBS taps Colbert as Letterman’s Late Show successor

    Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman reports that CBS has announced Stephen Colbert as its choice to replace the retiring David Letterman as host of “The Late Show” on Bloomberg Television’s “Lunch Money.”

     

    April 10, 2014

  • Where's Mommy 4-8 Good Reads

    NOTE: Email dpeery@edmondsun.com to have your name entered into a drawing for the following titles: “Where’s Mommy?” and/or “Say It Ain’t So!” Deadline is 10 a.m. April 14. Winner will be notified by return email. Winner is responsible for picking up the book at The Edmond Sun at 123 S. Broadway. All entrants must be 18 or older to win.

    April 8, 2014 3 Photos

  • ‘ACM@UCO Rocks Bricktown’ features Moby as headliner

    The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO) will take over Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district with more than 70 ACM@UCO student bands in 14 venues as a part of its fifth annual “ACM@UCO Rocks Bricktown” event. The live music starts at 3 p.m.  April 11, with a “Sound Mixing for Feature Film” panel at 1 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

    April 7, 2014