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Disney sees Infinity game's retail sales hitting $1 billion

By Lisa Richwine and Malathi Nayak

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co expects global retail sales from its 10-month-old Infinity video game to reach $1 billion even as rivals also combine physical toys with video games, Jimmy Pitaro, president of the company's interactive unit, said in an interview.

Disney launched Infinity in August to help turn around its interactive gaming unit, which lost $1.4 billion from fiscal year 2008 to 2013. In an overhaul in March, the division laid off about one-quarter of the workforce, cut the number of games it develops and focused its advertising more on the fast-changing mobile market.

A month ago, Disney reported global retail sales of $550 million for Infinity. Sales of the game helped the interactive unit post a $14 million profit for the quarter that ended in March, its third consecutive quarterly profit.

"We will be a billion-dollar franchise," Pitaro said of Infinity in an interview on Wednesday at the E3 video game conference.

A Disney spokeswoman said the company expects Infinity's global retail sales will cross that threshold with the upcoming launch of the game's next version, "Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes."

She added that Pitaro's projection was "just the beginning of what we expect it to do. This is a long-term game franchise."

Infinity lets users play with characters from Disney and Pixar films such as Anna and Elsa from "Frozen," Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Lightning McQueen from "Cars."

The 2.0 version that will be launched in the fall brings in Marvel heroes such as Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man.

Infinity competes with Activision Blizzard Inc's "Skylanders" franchise that first successfully introduced the concept of toys coming to life on screen when placed on an electronic base. Since its launch in October 2011 until the end of 2013, "Skylanders" has surpassed $2 billion in revenue.

This week at E3, Nintendo Co Ltd announced it would release "amiibo" toys of characters such as Mario with a chip that activates them in games when placed on the GamePad controller of its Wii U console.

Disney also plans more mobile "Star Wars" games before its scheduled December 2015 release of the seventh movie in the classic sci-fi series, Pitaro said. Disney also has a multi-year licensing deal with Electronic Arts Inc to develop a different line of "Star Wars" games.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Malathi Nayak; Edited by Ronald Grover, Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)

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