< Updated 12/8/16, shifting to freemium/subscription model & related benefits >
Glossary Post #2 from "A Toy Box Tale: Recapture the Spark!"
In the story, The Registrar is the process by which players subscribe to the new owner's services. This focuses on the core, differentiating value of Disney Infinity: creating & sharing your own games & stories with toy versions of your favorite Disney characters, including Pixar, Marvel, & Star Wars characters. It is therefore a subscription-based pricing model.
The major gaming consoles now have a solid list of free-to-play games, some where revenue comes from stand-alone packet purchases, others for subscriptions. The nature of immersive, better-organized, shared Toy Box Community Content would favor the latter. This makes it possible for a simple, consistent pricing structure for the consoles, the PC, and eventually mobile, that provides its own built-in marketing. But what might that free version of the Toy Box be? Consider this - all of the simple toys, terrain, tracks, Creativi-toys (except for the Text Creator), and a handful of themes to demo how theming works. There would be say ten characters to show the depth of the skill trees, brands, & overall style. Community Content availability would be extremely limited, but would include much of the reboot storyline (without the capability to unlock more toys), and all of the in-game tutorials. This would provide plenty of material for both old & new players as to the content's better organization, reboot storyline, improvements to building options, and in-game instruction to the various gaming genres - it's the type of free demo that draws players into subscriptions, for it gives a better idea as to what the Toy Box & its Community can do.
Dismantling the Toy Store
The subscription price would include ALL shared content and ALL of the virtual toys. This would maximize the options for creativity, encourage more players to build their own Toy Boxes to share them with the community, and therefore increase the value of all subscriptions. This would be a consistent pricing model for ALL platforms - console, PC, & mobile. There would be no more Play Set purchases required to get the entire Toy Box experience. There would be no "Spark bundles" for digital content. There would be no more in-game Toy Store. Blue Sparks would no longer be some inconsistent measure of micro-transaction-currency that represent real money on the digital side of the platform (instead, these sparks would become a new game mechanic, a specialized counter used by Toy Box builders that would further enhance the reboot's underlying storyline). This pricing model would eliminate all sorts of "hidden costs" of the Toy Box experience, a major criticism from both players & game reviewers. Players would be directly paying for what is most valuable in Infinity - creative building & sharing content. The Toy Box is about community - subscription-based pricing is simply a much better fit for that.
Informative Introductions & Unlocking the Fun
It could be overwhelming for new players to have ALL of those toys immediately available, and unlocking toys was arguably the most fun part of the Play Sets anyway. The rebooted Infinity Team could string a set of Toy Boxes together (with a little enhancement to the Toy Box Door & the displayed playlist menu) to form a virtual Play Set. These Toy Boxes could unlock special features & themes showcased in said Toy Boxes. Some could come from the former Toy Store, former Play Sets, former Power Discs, or new content. The trick is to have the right basic subset that is sufficient to build in the freemium version, with ownership of the Creativi-Toys so that the in-game lab tutorials can be programmed. As new content is delivered over time, the Infinity Team would release more Toy Boxes to that introductory storyline that can unlock that new content for players to use in their own building.
Access To All Characters
Strictly speaking, the characters are also toys, and the subscription price would include access to all of them. This would resolve a lot of problems. There are basically a hundred characters already in Infinity already. The menu for the virtual bases on the PC & mobile sides are rather discouraging; even with dozens of characters it feels like you're missing out on the overall experience. Even on the console, many players would appreciate a more affordable way to try them all. It also mitigates a potential problem that the new owner might not be able to sell more copies of the existing figures. The rebooted Toy Box can be completely digital, facilitating sales & distribution, yet still support existing Infinity bases and pre-existing figures. Players could enjoy a streamlined interface on the Toy Box main menu that immediately recognizes the character(s) on the Infinity base to find character adventures for example, and eventually, the rebooted business might offer new ones as separate, optional, physical collectibles.
Access To All Power Discs
The Power Discs were apparently a low point with Infinity sales. Existing ones would continue to be recognized on the Infinity base, but they could all become available virtually. The Vehicles/Mounts/Tools/Packs could potentially still be considered "Power Disc" as far as dynamic Creativi-Toy generators go (depending on the internal memory management of these toys and the amount of rework required) - it would just be extending the PC/mobile interface of these virtual Power Discs to the console. The knowledge that ALL of these toys are available to ALL subscribed players would allow Toy Box builders to create much more immersive experiences, as these discs had the best horses, cars, etc. as well as special costumes that could be programmable in specific character adventures.
The PC Becomes Premier AND Early-Entry
The PC version of Infinity has been criticized as being a "second-string" version. It's understandable that laptops are more mobile without the Infinity base. Yet with subscription pricing, you'd be allowing players the choice. The PC version could be updated to support the Infinity base and its figures, while still supporting the full unlock of all the characters digitally. PC gamers could play in the Toy Box whichever way they chose. New Toy Boxes from the Infinity Team could be delivered to all of the supported platforms, but updates to the game engine could be delivered & potentially beta-tested on the PC side first (due to the necessary delays associated with the gaming consoles). The existence of PC-Gaming-As-A-Service also widens the market (particularly on the educational side), where the necessity of a graphics card can be offloaded server side.
Timing of New Figures
Initially the new owner might not be able to distribute new figures. There may be a greater delay in the release of all new characters. Sadly, there might not be any new physical figures at all (this pricing model would still work all-digital). Perhaps the figures would be stocked in time for a movie's DVD/Blu-Ray release instead of the movie's release. The digital versions of the characters could be made available sooner. This would also allow contests for early-adopters to create character adventure Toy Boxes. This would make it possible for the Community to provide a variety of themed character adventures before the physical figures is available in stores. And since this pricing model is not nearly as dependent on figure sales, perhaps they're not even distributed through brick-n-mortar channels, but strictly through online warehouse purchasing.
Super Powers for the 1.0 Characters
It's been a frequent criticism that the 1.0 characters should get super-powers to match up against all the others. This was probably not plausible in a pricing model that was based on new figure sales. Here the pricing model is based on the ongoing, overall Toy Box experience. With sufficient fan feedback, there's a much better chance to shore up powers for those older characters, especially when many players have unlocked them all.
Avoiding Toy Box Identity Theft At Startup
It's worth mentioning that the recovery of community content for the reboot is not just about the Toy Boxes themselves. It's also the Disney Infinity IDs. There were some unfortunate occurrences of Toy Box plagiarism over the years. Some players might try to register on the reboot with a Toy Box Master's ID for instance. The role of the Registrar at startup would be to somehow verify the identity of anyone requesting an ID that already exists in the archives - perhaps the Walt Disney Company could provide past account information to the new owner, including verifiable address & password information, not for public use of course, but for the purpose of internal verification within the registration process.
Hours-of-Code & Maker Faires
On an educational note, this free-to-play model encourages schools & other community centers to utilize in-game tutorial Toy Boxes for Hour-of-Code events at no cost, providing further marketing to students, families, & the educators themselves. With the new national emphasis in the U.S. for CS-for-All, K-12, & emphasizing outreach to girls and other STEM minorities, groups of subscriptions to Toy Box licensing would be a perfect fit for early-comp-sci Maker Faire projects at school clubs, library programs, & summer tech camps.
Predictable Revenue & Reliable Commitment
There could be various discounts for paying 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or more, up-front. There could be discounts in paying for multiple subscriptions at a time - for a family, for a club, etc. While a console counts as a single device allowing multiple players on a single subscription, the PC & mobile options encourage many subscriptions when Players are playing or building together. From the buyers' perspective, this pricing model is much more reliable, alleviating fears associated with reboot failing with yet another shutdown. They are paying for a service that is guaranteed to exist at least as long as their subscription duration - the longer the maximum subscription duration can be, the greater confidence level they will have in the reboot. Plus, there are no hidden costs for creative building or in the games that can be played. There are essentially no pay-twice penalties for multiple platforms. The subscription model mitigates risk for both the seller & the buyer, and focuses on the value of the product: sharing Disney Toy games & stories.