Seeing as how Skylanders has become an effective and powerful business model for Activision between sales of games and interactive characters, we knew it was a matter of time before a true competitor stepped up.  Disney Interactive did just that earlier this year with the announcement of Disney Infinity, a game where casual and dedicated players alike can not only play around in universes based on popular Disney franchises but also create their own with the help of the Toy Box system.

The game is being developed by Avalanche Software, the same team behind the Toy Story 3 game that introduced the Toy Box concept back in 2010 and it has plenty of ambition behind it.  The opening package looks to be a great deal for around $80, including a Pirates of the Caribbean play set and three figurines – Captain Jack Sparrow, Monsters Inc.'s Sully and Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles.

Here's how the game works: characters can play around in their distinguished universes, so if you have Pirates of the Caribbean loaded up as the game world you can play as Jack Sparrow or a number of other characters.  Any character can be selected for Toy Box mode, where you can literally build whatever world you wish using foreground and background items as well as modifications.  For instance, you can take a Monsters University inspired world and make it neon-coated using a Tron power disc.

To help break down what you'll need to make Disney Infinity tick, we've provided a beginner's guide that breaks down the three main components and what you'll need in order to play.  These components stack onto an interactive portal that you plug into your game system with a certain number of spaces for play sets and characters.

Playable Universes

So far, only a handful of Disney licenses have been announced but there are plenty more that can be introduced down the line.  Radiator Springs is one of the bigger areas you can check out in Infinity, mainly because you've got miles of terrain that you can cover with the likes of Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, Francesco Bernoulli (the Formula One race car rival from Cars 2) and Lightning's girl Holley Shiftwell.

A Pirates of the Caribbean world exists as well and is very likely to be included with the launch package of Infinity.  The playset will like you warp around a pirate-filled city as you meet up with familiar characters (like Sparrow's right hand man Joshamee Gibbs) and battling enemies.

Other levels that are likely to be introduced into the game include Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the city from The Incredibles where the giant robot created a menace near the conclusion of the film, the school from the upcoming Monsters University and more.  Others that are likely to be introduced include locations from Wreck-It Ralph (the Sugar Rush speedway seems like the most likely area) and the neighborhood from the Disney TV series Phineas and Ferb.

Playable Characters

Only designated characters can be used in main story modes with the play sets, so you won't be able to rampage through Pirates of the Caribbean's story with Sully from Monsters University.  There are still a variety of characters that can join in each respective universe.  For instance, Captain Barbossa and Davy Jones can hop into the Pirates world, while Mike Wazowski and Randall Boggs can team up with Sully in the Monsters world.

Each universe will have multiple characters, both heroes and villains, which will keep things interesting.  The Incredibles will feature such interesting characters like Frozone and the villainous Syndrome, while Toy Story will introduce Woody and Buzz, along with Jessie and Bullseye for good measure.

This is just the start, as future add-ons for the game will also introduce such fan favorites as Wreck-It Ralph (who was featured in the launch trailer), Phineas and Ferb (along with the investigative Perry the Platypus), and Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Disney hasn't announced any definitive new add-ons to the game just yet, but you can bet they will with E3 rolling around.

Power Discs and the Toy Box

One area of the game where you won't have any limits with interactive play sets and character figurines is the Toy Box.  The world opens up to you in this mode, with a number of items available for building.  If you ever wanted to place Scrooge McDuck's luxurious money bin in the midst of Monsters University's campus world, you can do so.  You can also create smaller items like cars, mini-games or the unexpected soccer game that Disney put together for us during a recent demo for Infinity, complete with fireworks for every time we score a goal.  (It's unknown if elements from one Toy Box to another can interact with fellow players online, but friends and family members can join in locally via co-op.)

Finally, you've got Power Discs that you can buy in a "blind" two-pack for $4.99 once they're released at retail.  These give your characters particular advantages over the course of the game, whether it's an increase in wealth from currency you pick up, taking less damage, increasing health or boosting your damage.  These will be inspired by several Disney franchises, including Lilo & Stitch, Peter Pan, Mulan, Dumbo and Mickey Mouse among others.  You'll get a taste of Power Disc additive power with one that will be included in the Disney Infinity launch package.  They will also allow you to change the items and themes within a Toy Box, expanding your adventure significantly.

Disney Infinity will cost a bit more to get the most out of the experience, but the fact you can craft it to however you see fit – from Wreck-It Ralph to Tron to Tangled – really opens up the possibilities.  We'll take a closer look at Disney Infinity in the months ahead leading up to its release in stores on August 18th, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii and Nintendo 3DS.