Marvel’s creative empire seems to know no bounds. The company has taken old comic book characters and turned them into the gods of modern entertainment. There are films that make hundreds of millions of dollars, popular toys and costumes, television show spin-offs, and new comic books that are getting more attention than they would have a decade or two ago. But if there’s one area in which Marvel has been underwhelming, it’s with video games.
That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some very good games over the years. Marvel has excelled in the mobile market, and there have been occasional console games that have received good reviews. They’ve also done well with some collaborative projects, such as working with LEGO for its adventure franchise or partnering with Capcom for fighting games. But compared to the almost automatic success Marvel seems to enjoy at the cinema, the gaming branch of the empire has been lackluster.
That might not be the case for much longer. There are changes underway for Marvel in the video game world. Here are some worth noting.
First, Marvel appears to be pouring consistent energy into the mobile games. This is evident not just because the games continue to be popular, but because they keep being updated with surprising regularity. Just recently, the fighting game Contest Of Champions wrapped up a month of focus on the Guardians Of The Galaxy and introduced the villain Carnage as a new character, playing into fans’ interest in Spider-Man stories heading into the summer. It’s all done very carefully, with the Guardians’ month coinciding with the release of the new film, and the new Carnage introduction leading up to the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming in July. Marvel is almost using mobile games as marketing tools for their larger projects, and there’s no reason that should stop.
While they’re ramping up mobile content, Marvel seems to be winding down other parts of its gaming business—or at least there are signs that it might. The company has been heavily involved in online casino sites for years, lending character licenses to slot machine developers to create fun and engaging content. It was recently announced that Playtech, which is responsible for several of the Marvel titles, will be moving on from the superhero slots and dropping its rights to the licenses. That’s not a guarantee that the Marvel slots will disappear. The titles could move to a new developer, or new versions of them could be designed. It looks like this is one area in gaming that Marvel might be willing to surrender to some degree.
One has to wonder if that’s at least partially due to the renewed focus on console gaming, which is probably the most important and exciting shift we’re seeing in the company’s gaming strategy. Last year, Marvel announced a renewed effort to create high-end console games, and they’ve just recently shown that they intend to follow through on that announcement. The Guardians Of The Galaxy game by Telltale has been a success, and a new Spider-Man game for PS4 was unveiled at the E3 conference. Marvel has been quiet about what other titles might be in the works, but the Spider-Man game represents a bold new step that should have fans excited about the future.
If one thing is for certain it’s that it will be a lot of fun to watch what the company does in the coming years.