Disney Infinity – Toy Box Mode Great For Imaginative Play

When I was a kid a good few years ago I remember being given a Space Invaders game. It was one of those clunky black plastic monstrosities that any child would happily have sold his sibling to obtain and provided many hours of entertainment late at night under the bed sheets when my parents thought I was asleep. One dimensional game-play and the simplest of objectives didn’t make the game any less compelling. Move over the early 1980s and take a look at what our kids have to look forward to now! I’m going to leave aside the discussion over whether or not kids should be playing video games as that’s a particular can of worms that it will take more than this blog post to cover.

Disney Infinity launches this August and you can see that it’s an idea that has the hallmarks of success stamped all over it. I’m pretty positive that my kids will want a copy, in fact I think I may pre-purchase a copy just so that I don’t have to look at those little imploring faces. So why will Disney Infinity be a hit?

  • Collectibles – There’s something absolutely inherent in a child’s psychological make up that drives them to collect things, whether it’s sea shells, interesting flowers or any manner of other objects. In fact humans just in general are natural collectors. I imagine there’s probably something in our evolutionary background that selected for this particular behaviour. Maybe cavemen who always had that useful object tucked away somewhere tended to have a better chance of survival. Disney Infinity follows in the footsteps of Skylanders in having real world objects that activate game play when placed on a peripheral figurine docking station.
  • It’s Disney – Kids love the films, heck, I love the films. I could spend hours listening to Edna talk in The Incredibles. The idea that kids can play in the worlds inhabited by these characters and share their adventures is always going to be a compelling one.
  • Social Play with Friends – You can’t build a major gaming title today, whether it’s a big AAA title or a little iPhone game, without having some form of social play. I know from watching my kids play Littlest Petshop that the social aspect of play is very important to them and is certainly a factor in determing both the longevity of the game and the amount of time children spend playing. Disney Infinity looks to have very strong social play building on the learning Disney has had from other social titles it’s released.
  • Toy Box Mode – Here is where I think that Disney will “hit the ball out of the park” to use and American maxim. Toy box mode allows kids to actually build there own worlds then play in them with their friends. Disney have obviously seen the popularity of sand box environments like Minecraft and equated that to children’s love for being able to create. This is a great feature and this alone would persuade me to purchase the game for my kids just to see what they’re going to create and the games they end up playing.

From the point of view of a parent another thing I like about Disney is that they spend a lot of time thinking about “safe guarding”. I’ve worked in the past with people that work at Disney and I know they spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to protect kids online. Disney Infinite should be a safe and creative environment for our kids imaginations to run riot.

Microsoft Tells Customers The Offline Strategy for XBox One is XBox 360

In a recent interview Microsoft’s Don Mattrick told a reporter that if customers didn’t have an Internet connection then Microsoft has an offline device, it’s called Xbox 360. Whilst this was a heavy handed and perhaps unwise statement, it underlines the company’s position pretty clearly.

So has the Microsoft senior management team lost all understanding of their customer’s needs? Certainly the discussion of this feature has flared across the social media channels and much of the response has been negative. Bearing this in mind, why insist on Internet connectivity for XBox One? The answer is simple, Microsoft want to make money.

Now before you throw your hands up in the air and say “Well they won’t make money if everyone buys a PS4” take a moment to consider that Microsoft have almost certainly taken a good long look at their customers and have still decided to go down this route. The question is why?

On the face of it the PS4 is a better gaming platform, with a more open development strategy to encourage indy developers. It doesn’t have to be online and it has a lower price tag. Gamers at E3 certainly seem impressed with comments like “They’ve listened to us and given us exactly what we want” being frequently heard.

The answer to what Microsoft are doing is that they are not aiming at hardcore gamers. They’ve noticed four important trends:

1. The market for hardcore gamers is significantly smaller than the entire home entertainment market. Customers want games sure, and your gaming console better not disappoint, but the on-demand entertainment market is just starting to become mainstream.

2. Net-neutrality has become pretty enshrined in U.S. law with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approving new rules in 2010 banning Internet providers from interfering with traffic from “over-the-top” service providers like Netflix.

3. Networks are beginning to have the speed with fiber optic roll outs to reliably deliver high definition, on-demand content in a reasonable time-frame.

4. The Fremium model has shown that you can make millions out of in app purchases on mobile platforms and that some games with very limited scope can perform beyond expectations.

So what does all this mean when we look at Microsoft’s strategy? Simply, they don’t just want to be a gaming platform, they want to be a home entertainment platform and for this they need to be online. They want a bigger bite of the cherry and they don’t mind offending a few hard core gamers to do it.

Expect to see more on-demand video, TV channel packages, non-AAA title games with fremium models and other web based pay-as-you-go services.

There’s no doubt that Microsoft are taking a bit of a gamble with this approach but ultimately time will tell whether they manage to successfully position themselves as a media provider and quarterly financial reports will inform as to whether the strategy is a success. However, they’re in good company with taking an online purchasing approach; Apple makes as much money from apps now as it does from the hardware.