A few months ago, we relayed the exciting news that Marvel was working on a new wave of video games, to be launched via a Spider-Man title expected out in 2017. As noted then, Marvel has pretty much dropped the ball as compared to DC in the console video game space. Rocksteady’s Arkham series raised the bar, so to speak, for superhero gaming, and Marvel hasn’t come up with anything close.
The Spider-Man game, however, is showing some immense early promise. The trailer was breathtaking, and pretty much every detail that’s been revealed about the forthcoming game has been exciting. Throw in the fact that Marvel’s best console gaming attempts over the years have generally been related to Spidey, and there’s plenty of reason to be excited.
However, the impending launch of a new wave of console games from the gargantuan comic company also provides some incentive to look back at what that company has accomplished so far in this realm. As stated, the console offerings have largely been disappointing—and, lately, pretty much nonexistent. That’s not to say the company has necessarily been lazy when it comes to crafting video games based on its wildly popular characters, because Marvel has actually had numerous successful ventures in gaming.
Marvel’s MMO, known as Marvel Heroes 2016 (with an update coinciding with each passing year), is actually a pretty gigantic slice of gaming entertainment. It may be easy to discard as “not a console game” and therefore not worthwhile for people who aren’t fans of the genre. However, these games are called “massive multiplayer” for a reason: they rope in huge numbers of regular players. Marvel’s MMO is a big and beautiful experience that’s consistently updated with new characters and material, and is thus always evolving. It’s compared frequently to Diablo in terms of gameplay, and one thorough analysis placed it soundly ahead of DC Universe, which is DC’s counterpart MMO. Frankly, this is a game that probably deserves a little bit more credit within the persistent narrative that Marvel gaming has been a letdown.
This is more of a niche category that thrills some gamers and leaves others utterly uninterested. Nevertheless, the audience for online casino games tends to be rather large. And as you can see here in a rundown of popular slot and arcade gaming options, Marvel has a pretty large footprint on the genre. In case you’re unfamiliar with these types of games, there are a lot of major online casinos with real money gaming options that host licensed content as a means of expanding their appeal. It’s common to see slot reels based on major films or even works from TV or literature. And within these games, it’s quite common to see Marvel titles based specifically on films or simply on characters from the comics. These aren’t the kinds of games that will necessarily interest those clamoring for AAA experiences. They do represent a great success on Marvel’s part, though, having expanded the company’s reach into a whole genre that could easily have been untouched.
Finally, Marvel has had a very strong presence on mobile and social gaming platforms. There are actually a number of different examples, spreading over the RPG and fighter categories, with a few smaller games worked in as well. Contest Of Champions, arguably the most recognizable Marvel mobile game, is frequently compared to DC’s Injustice: Gods Among Us, because both are built to be straightforward fighters featuring popular heroes and villains. And it’s probably fair to say that in this genre and perhaps in mobile and social gaming in general, Marvel and DC are about on par with one another. That’s to say that this is another area in which Marvel has satisfied a lot of fans, despite its lack of focus on console games (or perhaps because of it).
In the end, it’s still accurate to say a significant portion of Marvel fans have been a little bit disappointed by the company’s gaming achievements, and the coming wave can’t get started soon enough. However, it’s also pretty clear that Marvel has had a little more success than we tend to acknowledge in creating video games.