Disney’s never been much of a name in gaming. Disney Interactive is the only branch of the company that has reported consistent losses. In the past few years, Disney hasn’t even put that much of an effort into console gaming, choosing to focus on simple games played on websites like Facebook or on mobile devices. But that might be about to change.
Gaming website CNET reports that Disney’s taken out a patent for a gaming console that employs augmented reality. This isn’t the first of Disney’s augmented reality patents; late last year I blogged about one involving images projected over top birthday cakes. What’s significant about this patent, however, is that it indicates in what direction the company might be headed, gaming-wise.
We already know some. Last week Disney Interactive unveiled Disney Infinity, a sandbox-style console game featuring a variety of Disney and Pixar characters. It’s likely the other big release the company teased late last year. The game sounds similar to the Disney Universe, only with actual Disney characters.
For Infinity, gamers have to buy figurines of the characters they want to play (the base version of the game comes with Sully from “Monsters Inc.” and Captain Jack Sparrow). Users can play stories within the worlds of their characters, or explore the Toy Box feature, where multiple characters can interact together. There’s a social element as well, as users can log into XBOX Live and invite friends to the worlds they’ve designed.
First Disney Interactive takes out a patent for its own console. Then a few months later, it unveils Infinity, a new sprawling console game. It’s a bit surprising that Infinity, which releases in June, wasn’t designed for the unnamed console, but the console is surely still in development.
Let’s look at the details, scant though they may be, of the console patent. First, the images accompanying the patent show that this is a handheld console, like the Nintendo DS, rather than one attached to a television, like the Nintendo Wii. Once again, the augmented reality aspect of the game is a bit less exciting than its fancy name implies. In this case, players would take a picture of something, like a bird in a tree. They’d be able to animate the images in their picture on the device and add Disney characters.
Although that’s not some amazing 3D experience, like I always expect when I hear the term “augmented reality,” that’s still pretty neat. To be able to take a picture and then play around with it and animate it is fun. It’ll be interesting to see how soon in the future we’ll get any official announcements of Disney’s efforts in augmented reality, whether in gaming or otherwise. It could be a good time for Disney Interactive: a new game and console on the way.
No matter what, it looks like Disney’s poised to take some new steps in the gaming industry. It remains to be seen whether they’ll be feats or flops.
*(The above image by Alan/Falcon is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.)