Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise made billions at the box office. Now it has a new audience to win over: gamers.
Disney’s Marvel Entertainment and video game publisher Square Enix released the long-awaited Avengers video game Friday on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Google’s cloud gaming platform, Stadia.
The release comes more than two years after Marvel Entertainment announced its partnership with the Japanese gaming company.
The new Avengers game costs $60 and has in-game transactions for cosmetic upgrades. While there’s a story mode that lasts approximately a dozen hours, the game also has a multiplayer mode where you play online with others.
The developers plan on giving the game the “Fortnite”-like treatment, keeping it alive for years with continuous updates, adding more content over time. That’s a departure from the traditional strategy in which games were released as standalone physical copies with a fixed experience that ended when you won.
Disney hasn’t had much success with past multiplayer efforts such as Toontown and Marvel Heroes, which it shut down over time.
“The new direction with Marvel’s Avengers has a better chance of success because of the strength of the franchise and the changes in online consumer behavior since then,” said Joost van Dreunen, founder of video game investment firm New Breukelen.
“Marvel’s Avengers” plunges players right into the action with an intense battle sequence on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. After a tragedy, the team disbands, but they must reunite several years later to save the world once again.
While at a glance, the plot sounds like parts of the movies “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame,” the game introduces a new character, Kamala Khan, better known as Ms. Marvel, who was previously little known outside comic book circles. Kamala is a Muslim American heroine who can wield her stretchy fists like slingshots and transform to be bigger than the Hulk.
From the start of the game, players can see what it’s like to play as Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow. It’s epic, with cinematic battle scenes accompanied by the rumbling of your controller. “God of War” fans may find Thor’s playstyle of slamming enemies over and over in the air is similar to 2018’s game of the year, as the combat director for “Marvel’s Avengers” worked on both.
The game was developed by Crystal Dynamics, a subsidiary of Square Enix that worked on the critically acclaimed “Tomb Raider” series of video games.
You won’t find Hollywood’s biggest stars in the games. The developers hired a new cast of actors to portray Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, the Hulk and Thor. But the characters’ outfits, styling and quips are still similar.
“Avengers: Endgame” raked in $1.2 billion on its opening weekend in April last year, shattering records. Marvel Studios has made over $20 billion at the global box office with its larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“It’s a brilliant extension of the MCU even if its gameplay could use some fixes,” said Dreunen, the investment firm founder, referring to bugs present during the early preview. “The introduction of a new protagonist like Kamala Khan evidences that Disney is willing to rewrite its own playbook on IP development.”