Marvel’s Avengers is one of the best examples ever of how to misuse a franchise. The game should have been a layup: Take one of the most popular movie franchises in the world, put them in fun gameplay system, and watch as it prints money. To be fair to its developers, Crystal Dynamics, the game has been praised since its launch for all the characters being fun to use. Yes, the phrase “You feel like [whichever Avenger]” is overused, but it was the best sentiment possible to describe the gameplay.
What has consistently plagued the series has been decision-making that went beyond the meat of the game, decisions that likely go beyond the control of the actual developers. For starters, the character designs originally made everyone extremely unhappy. Then, everyone got the game and saw a flurry of cosmetic microtransactions, which beget every DLC character post-launch getting their own individual battle pass. This, essentially, means that anyone who has actually been enjoying the game and is completing it would have to spend even more money to do that.
The process of simply playing the game got even more difficult when, back in March, it was announced that the leveling system was changing. Grinding out experience and leveling up individual characters is now even more challenging. While longtime players could take solace in the fact that they wouldn’t be able to level up faster by spending money on experience points, that changed with a recent update which, alongside the game being added to Xbox Gamepass, made buying experience an option. Via Kotaku:
Players can buy 1.5x boosts that last a week, three days, or one day. Along with these purchasable boosts, players can also collect a free two-hour boost, so they can experience a first, fleeting taste of extra XP for free before paying for their next hit. The most expensive, longest-lasting boost costs 500 credits, which is five dollars’ worth of in-game currency.
Not only is this extremely gross — because it’s pay to win in a game that, as we’ve already shown, is full of microtransactions — but it walks back something the developers had previously said it would never do.
We’ve also committed that content purchasable with real money in Marvel’s Avengers will be aesthetic-only additions, which will ensure we can keep the game fresh for years to come. The fight against AIM is only just beginning, there is much more story and many more heroes on the horizon.
The decision is exploitative and a cheap cash grab by people in a position that want to use the popularity of the Avengers franchise. It is also another example of a game that has at no point been able to get out of its own way. Even when players were enjoying the game and streaming it, at one point they accidentally pushed through an update that revealed the player’s IP address on the screen. Mistakes happen, but it becomes more difficult to justify those mistakes when every decision that has been made surrounding the game has been bad.
The part of this that hurts the most is that Marvel’s Avengers should be a good game. The people who play it and like it universally praise how fun it is. The gameplay is great and the feedback loop is enjoyable. There is a good game in here and one that has the potential to make an Avengers video game just as big as the movies. Unfortunately, decisions that are focused on cashing in on that name have taken the forefront of every conversation around it.