Marvel’s Avengers is dead. The live service take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has officially been completely delisted from all digital storefronts as of Saturday, September 30, and it takes with it a promising game that fell victim to chasing industry trends. While anyone who already owns the game can still play both the single-player and multiplayer, no word of mouth can expand the audience. This is it.
I always liked Marvel’s Avengers. I didn’t love the hamfisted attempts at superhero loot boxes, recurring menial events, and all the live service gumbo that bloated the experience, but under that there was a solid single-player game, and a diverse cast of playable characters that could have made a truly great superhero co-op adventure on top of that.
Earlier this year we learned that Marvel’s Avengers was shutting down, as no new content for the Square Enix published and Crystal Dynamics developed live service game was coming, followed by this week’s pulling from digital storefronts. With dwindling player numbers, I can only assume that the live service game did not meet the regular audience it required to successfully carve out a place in the genre’s ever-so-small space. After all, a cursory glance at somewhere like Steam will show how few were playing.
A Marvel’s Avengers sale did offer up last-minute adopters a cheap way to try the game alone or with friends, but the gamble of using the world’s biggest superhero team to cut through the overpopulated games as a service space didn’t work. Not even using one of the world’s biggest properties means your live service game will be a success, and there should really be a lesson in that.
It’s also pretty upsetting that Marvel’s Avengers just had its highest player count in over two years, as almost 5,000 people were playing the game at one time on Steam just this week. This is the highest number of players we’ve seen since the free Black Panther expansion in August of 2021.
The real tragedy is that Marvel’s Avengers wasn’t even bad. With a steady stream of new characters and narrative stories, the version of Marvel’s Avengers that died was markedly different from the one that was born, and I always had fun when playing. That is, whenever the game wasn’t bogged down in repetitive tasks to help Iron Man get a new set of boosters you’ll never see, all so your power level could go up a couple of numbers.
Moment-to-moment gameplay was fun but, in making the whole game like Destiny, in an effort to chase that long-term success Bungie has found in the last decade, Marvel’s Avengers got bogged down in menus, items, stats, and menial tasks. This took away from what should’ve made Marvel’s Avengers shine, a superhero story where you could play as any of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, alone or with friends.
While the Guardians of the Galaxy game from Eidos-Montréal didn’t meet Square Enix’s expectations at the time either, as it was the one who originally published the game before Embracer’s purchase of the studio, that’s a game that I think will live on. Through word of mouth and a clear focus on telling a single-player narrative, instead of trying to stuff it full of meaningless longevity, the adventure of the galaxy’s most dysfunctional functional family has more of a reason to be returned to. Heck, it’s the only one of the two that can actually be returned to if word of mouth has you wanting to buy it.