By Brian Penaloza
As a general rule, at Bear Den Gaming we won’t be doing previews. The idea behind this website is to host articles that are timeless and can be read and enjoyed at any time. Every so often though, the circumstances behind a game’s development are so interesting that we can’t help but take a look at it. Though perceptions might change once the game is released, how the publisher or developer is handling things in the moment is worth commenting on. One such game is Marvel’s Avengers, being developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix.
As a brief history to get everyone up to speed, in 2017 a short teaser trailer was released featuring iconic Avengers related imagery buried under and around rubble. The teaser ended with the hashtag “Reassemble.” It was shown in the teaser that the game was being developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, which was promising as Crystal Dynamics is a very strong studio. The hype was real. And that was it, until E3 2019 when an underwhelming full reveal trailer was released to a chorus of sighs from gamers.
The reveal trailer was cinematically cool, but the character models looked like off-brand action figures and the graphics seemed more like launch title graphics rather than more current graphics. Everything looked plastic, and just odd. This makes some sense considering the game has been in development for years now and that the game is not a single player, story focused game but instead is a four-player co-op game with a separate single player story element. Beyond graphics though, the most interesting part of this story is that the trailer lacked any gameplay whatsoever, and for a game releasing May 2020 development should be far along enough that you should be seeing some gameplay. This lack of gameplay only amplified gamers concerns that this Avengers game is not the game they really wanted.
To Square Enix’s credit, they did show gameplay behind closed doors to some journalists at E3 but refused to allow any footage to be shared with those journalist’s audiences. Speculation was running wild at this point, but with the information at hand we have been able to deduce a number of things about the game. So, here is what we know.
The Avengers game will be a 3rd person action game, with a single player mode and a heavy focus on four player co-op. We know the game will be utilizing RPG elements such as gaining new powers and gear to build a custom version of your favorite heroes. We also know that at release there will be Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Black Widow as playable characters, but that other characters are rumored to be released post-launch. There is also mention of an “ever-expanding world under constant threat.” This all points to the idea that this game will be yet another in a long line of “Live-Service” games in a, frankly, oversaturated pool of such games.
For those gamers that were hoping for an Avengers experience on-par with Sony’s Spider-Man, the disappointment is palpable. Since the teaser trailer, many assumed that was the type of game that was being developed. And it would appear that Square Enix is not unaware of this disappointment, as the publisher has been incredibly vague as to the details of the game. In fact, during San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Square Enix hosted a panel about the game where they would reveal gameplay footage. Holding fast to the odd secrecy behind this game, they would not allow the panel to be live-streamed which is strange considering how much companies utilize live-streaming of panels in order to build hype for whatever it is their panel is promoting. When you put it all together, it seems clear what is going on.
When a publisher is confident in a game, they are eager to share as much about it as they can. In fact, these days it can be so much that in order to enjoy any mystique or mystery about a game one has to tune out from the coverage. Again, take Sony’s Spider-Man as an example. There was wall to wall coverage about everything from the costumes, to the story, to especially the gameplay. Insomniac and Sony were confident in their game, and for good reason. It is arguably one of the best exclusives on the Playstation 4. When a publisher is not confident in their game, you notice a lack of information and an attempt to slowly reveal bits about the game, which in general fails due to leaks such as the case with the comic-con gameplay footage. The leak only consisted of about 6 minutes worth of gameplay, but to be quite honest the gameplay looked underwhelming. So, it is no surprise that Square Enix is trying to keep things under wraps as much as they can, but ultimately this secrecy combined with what we know about the game is not instilling any confidence that this game is going to be any good.
Now, again, this is all mere speculation. The game could turn out to be amazing. But without concrete details as to what this game is, and with the only gameplay footage available being grainy cell phone camera recordings of a screen at a panel, the rumor mill is going wild and not in Square Enix’s favor. Ultimately if Square Enix is going to build any good buzz about this game, they need to start talking and they need to start sooner rather than later. It is reported that Square Enix will be releasing gameplay footage in late August which is great, but unless that footage is something better than what was shown behind closed doors, the impetus is on Square Enix to start selling the value of this game now. Address the question of this game being Live-Service. Tell people who were excited about the prospects of a single player Avengers game why this is the game for them, and not just a game for those interested in yet another multiplayer time-sink game. Tell everyone why they should be excited for this game, and do it now. Even though there is still almost a year until release, the PR strategy Square Enix has been employing is not working and is damaging the excitement for this game before it even has a chance. The ball is fully in Square Enix’s court, and it will be interesting to see how they handle details of this game going forward.