Disney Interactive made the addition of Marvel characters to Disney Infinity official at a media event Wednesday morning in Hollywood, CA with the unveiling of the upcoming "Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes." The "2.0" incarnation of the free-ranging "toys to life" video game franchise is scheduled for release in fall 2014, starting with the Avengers of the massively successful 2012 film -- Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye -- with more characters set to follow.
Beyond the Avengers, a trailer also showed, on the villain side, Loki, M.O.D.O.K. and copious crowds of Frost Giants, plus "Guardians of the Galaxy" fixtures Rocket Raccoon and Groot, Iron Patriot, recent movie star The Winter Soldier and -- briefly, at the very end -- Green Goblin and Spider-Man, the only "Infinity 2.0" characters showed at the event outside the purview of the Marvel Studios film franchise. Additionally, the game will add new Power Disc-activated vehicles, including a "sky cycle," a mini-Helicarrier and S.H.I.E.L.D. hovercar Lola, straight from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Following a short pre-taped video from Samuel L. Jackson, in character as Nick Fury, and an in-person introduction by the actor behing the beloved Agent Phil Coulson, Clark Gregg, Marvel chief creative officer Joe Quesada addressed the crowd of media and fans about the importance of the "Infinity" collaboration to Marvel, calling it an "evolutionary leap."
Quesada informed the crowd of what he believes makes Marvel characters special -- "It's their humanity that really made them aspirational and relatable" -- and praised the "incredible collaboration" between Marvel and Disney Interactive. As a sign of that collaboration, Quesada brought out Marvel mainstay Brian Michael Bendis, dubbing him "the most legendary creator" of Marvel's recent history, who was announced as a writer on "Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes."
"They were kind enough to call and say that they wanted me to create the story for them, and create the character voices, and make sure it really breathed and smelled and tasted like Marvel," Bendis said to the audience. "I was so happy to do it," he explained, saying he watched his own kids play the original "Disney Infinity."
Bendis said the Disney Interactive team "knows their stuff" when it comes to Marvel, and the initial announcement is "just the beginning. There are characters and stories that are coming up that is just going to blow your minds."
On stage, Bendis and Quesada debuted the first six Marvel "Infinity" figures -- the six movie Avengers -- real-world toys which activate the respective character's virtual presence within "Infinity."
John Blackburn, vice president and general manager of Avalanche Software, and John Vignocchi, executive producer of "Disney Infinity," joined the presentation to give answers to some pertinent questions: All of the characters from the original "Infinity" will be compatible with 2.0, as will the Power Discs and Toy Boxes. "Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes" is slated to launch in the fall with a starter pack featuring "one epic Marvel playset" and Thor, Iron Man and Black Widow figures. PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360, iOS and PC will continue to be supported, as well as current-gen systems PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Though no new Disney characters or playsets were specifically mentioned during the presentation, it was made clear that more are indeed on the way -- along with more Marvel content than revealed Wednesday. The original "Disney Infinity" has a roster of characters mainly from recent Disney and Pixar animated features -- including "Frozen," "Tangled" and "The Incredibles" -- along with some live-action characters like Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Phineas and Ferb" from Disney TV animation.
Along with the addition of Marvel characters and worlds -- which both include more realistic settings like New York City along with the high fantasy realm of Asgard -- Blackburn and Vignocchi discussed general updates coming with 2.0, focusing on character locomotion (Marvel characters can employ hover mode, forward flight, "super jump" and the Hulk can crawl walls -- not the only "Infinity 2.0" character with that ability, it was made clear), special skills and combat styles (Thor and Cap are brawlers, Hawkeye is mostly about range attacks) and attributes and skill tree, which will be more customizable and upgradeable than in the original "Infinity."
The "Infinity" team is also looking to implement enhancements to the environment-creating "Toy Box" mode, bringing structured play and greater usability. Blackburn said "2.0" is aimed at making the "Toy Box" more user friendly, with more automation in creating content, and a "brush system" and "builders" to help easily construct editable in-game venues.
"2.0" will also allow construction of interiors, with a video showing off Iron Man and Captain America themed rooms -- including touches like the giant plush dog Tony Stark attempted to give Pepper Potts as a gift in "Iron Man 3."
The structured play within the Toy Box will include tower defense (taking place on Asgard) and dungeon crawler games, with "light story." Blackburn said the previous game creation in "Infinity" "didn't feel like complete games," so the goal with "2.0" is to also ease that for the user -- including templates that can quickly implement rule sets.
Disney Interactive president Jimmy Pitaro opened the event with an explanation of why "Infinity" is important to Disney -- to provide a virtual place "where kids could play in the same way they always have on their bedroom floors" -- and to share some sales numbers. Pitaro said that according to market research firm NPD Group, more than 3 million "Disney Infinity" starter packs have been sold, with a total of $500 million in "estimated global retail sales" for the line -- putting it ahead of the "competition" (presumably similar franchises like "Skylanders," though none were named specifically) in total sales revenue. The category itself is increasing, Pitaro said, citing a statistic that "interactive gaming toy sales" increasing 79 percent from holiday 2012 to holiday 2013.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on "Disney Infinity 2.0."