The next version of Disney Infinity, Disney Interactive's "toys to life" blend of action figures and video games, is getting a fresh new world for fans to play in: the massive, galaxy-spanning Marvel universe.
This fall, Disney Infinity players will be able to pair Pirates of the Caribbean's Captain Jack Sparrow with Captain America, or Frozen's Elsa with The Avengers' Black Widow, and have them fight, race and adventure through Asgardian dungeons. It's a crossover that's been in the works for more than three years, according to Disney executives, and reflective of Marvel's commitment to making higher quality video games based on its range of superheroes.
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes has been in development in earnest for more than a year, while the original Infinity was still in production, said TQ Jefferson, vice president of production for games at Marvel Entertainment. Some of Marvel's top creatives, including writer Brian Michael Bendis and chief creative officer Joe Quesada, have been involved in the project for the past year.
But the conversation about bringing Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man and others to Disney Infinity started back in 2011.
"This has been a long time coming," John Vignocchi, the game's executive producer, told Polygon.
While today's reveal of Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes focused mainly on characters from The Avengers, the stars of nine highly successful films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the new game will draw upon the much larger Marvel universe of heroes, villains, teams and intergalactic locations.
"What you're going to see as we roll out and reveal more characters, is that they're going to be more characters that you've known forever and they make sense," Jefferson said. "And the other characters, you may not know them as well, but once you see them in-game, you're going to understand why we made the choices that we made. These characters bring a certain narrative strength with them and, just as important, they bring a unique bit of gameplay with them ... [these are the] characters that are the most fun to play ... that have the most impact on story.
"it's not just an Avengers game"
"Once you see the full spectrum of characters, it's not just an Avengers game. It's very much a Marvel super heroes game."
"We made sure that we focused on characters that were very game-able and that were priorities to Marvel moving forward," Vignocchi said.
The characters, the story, the settings used in play sets, Vignocchi said, will all tie together in a narratively connected way. Play sets in Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes will have a "common theme between them."
"One thing we haven't talked about that's really exciting is crossover characters," he said, "characters that will have specific content and stories from one play set to another to fully flesh out the world of how all the Marvel Super Heroes collection is connected."
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes will do more than just introduce a new set of characters and new technological gimmicks that make older toys feel obsolete. The 2.0 Edition update will include a series of new gameplay tweaks, both in terms of how characters play and evolve, and how players can create custom levels and game types in the world-building Toy Box mode.
"For us, the focus came down on innovating on the software side of things," Vignocchi said. "Ultimately let's not forget that we're a video game at our core. Really providing the most value to our players and responding to what they were asking for was our top priority."
Older characters, from the original Disney Infinity, will be getting a boost in the 2.0 Edition. Those upgrades will come in-game, Vignocchi said, and won't require buying a new set of figures. Players will be able to play with their existing collection, further level those characters up and unlock new abilities for them.
Disney Interactive also plans to continue to release new Disney and Pixar-themed content for the game.
Disney Infinity's 2.0 Edition is coming to many of the platforms the original game was released on, including iOS, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. It's also coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and those versions will take advantage of that extra horsepower.
"In terms of what we're doing with [PS4 and Xbox One], we're planning on making use of the graphical prowess of those machines — they can pump out some amazing-looking graphics," Vignocchi said. "In addition to that, what we're planning on doing is taking advantage of the overall memory footprint. In Disney Infinity there were certain platforms that were constrained by the amount of RAM, so people couldn't truly build the toy box of their dreams. We've optimized the engine to allow the last-gen, PS3 and 360, to still build compelling Toy Box levels, but with Xbox One and PS4, the sky's the limit."