June 18, 2015 / 8:30 PM / 2 years ago

Disney exploring virtual reality for video games

The entrance gate to The Walt Disney Co is pictured in Burbank, California February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co’s interactive unit is considering bringing Disney Infinity or other video games into the world of virtual reality.

Adapting elements of current titles is one option the company is exploring, James Pitaro, president of Disney Interactive, said in an interview. Disney also might create new games specifically for VR or for another emerging platform known as augmented reality, he said.

Virtual reality headsets offer a 360-degree view that immerses players in fantasy settings, while augmented reality projects computer images onto real-world settings.

The technology has been touted for decades but never reached mass adoption, and the entertainment industry is debating whether it will take off this time.

Disney Infinity, which has achieved $1 billion in global retail sales, mixes characters from Disney, Pixar and Marvel franchises. Star Wars will come to the new edition set for release this fall. The game includes a “toy box” mode allowing players to mix backdrops and characters from different franchises.

“You could easily imagine a scenario where we were to expand the toy box component of Infinity into AR or VR,” Pitaro said in an interview at the E3 video game conference, although he added Disney does not have that project or any other VR projects in development.

Disney is talking to the VR “platforms,” he said, without specifying which companies. Facebook Inc’s Oculus unit, Sony Corp and other companies will offer modern VR headsets to consumers later this year and next year.

Microsoft Corp generated buzz at E3 with a demonstration of its HoloLens AR headset using the Minecraft game.

Pitaro said he was impressed with recent VR technology and was enthusiastic about its possibilities.

“I do not think this is going to be a fad,” Pitaro said.

Some other companies showed VR prototypes at E3. Ubisoft, for example, demonstrated an experience that features its Rabbids characters and makes viewers feel like they’re riding a roller coaster.

Other gaming executives have voiced caution, waiting to see if consumers embrace VR.

Barclays analyst Christopher Merwin said he believes VR will become a viable platform, eventually. Consumers will likely wait until there is a enough software available to justify the cost of VR hardware, he said.

“Virtual reality is the future but it will take time,” Merwin said in a research note.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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